x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Help for the houbara, a hallmark of Emirati culture

Conservationists talk about the importance of keeping a sustainable number of houbara in the wild.

ABU DHABI // While the falcon is a well-known hallmark of Emirati culture, so too is the houbara, according to conservationists.

Yesterday, at the International Fund for Houbara Conservation's (IFHC) Adihex stall, Delphine Delire, head of PR, said it was important to keep sustainable numbers of them in the wild. "Before Bedouin times, it was a very important bird. They were feeding on it. Even now when people hunt it, it is to eat it."

The houbara has a wingspan of about 1.5 metres, with males weighing about 2.2 kilograms. Females normally weigh 1.2kg. This made the bird an important staple of the Bedouin diet.

"It is about preserving the cultural heritage but, in parallel, we have scientists, conservationists and ecologists who are following the birds, making studies, tracking them. Conservation efforts are being made."

IFHC has conservation centres in the UAE, Morocco and Kazakhstan, which breed and release houbara back into the wild. Over the past year, the fund released a record 5,855 houbara, with 4,405 released in the UAE alone as part of the Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Reintroduction Project. It also bred 40,340 houbara, up 31 per cent from the record set the previous year.

Ms Delire said falconers and breeders had to work together to ensure hunting was done in a sustainable manner.

* Hareth Al Bustani