Rare birds set free in Arabian peninsula

Abu Dhabi, Sep 3 (IANS/WAM) As part of a stratregy to prevent the population of houbara bustards from becoming extinct, the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) last year released a total of 5,855 Asian houbara bustards at sites across the Arabian peninsula.

The number of houbara bustards released so far this year is 1,450 from IFHC's world-leading captive breeding programme at designated protected areas in Kuwait, Qatar and Yemen, complementing the record number of houbara bustards released as part of IFHC's well-established programme in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The total figure is three times higher than the previous annual record and is the latest milestone in efforts to provide a sustainable future for a bird at the heart of Arabic culture and tradition.

"This is a significant step forward in our efforts to secure a living legacy for the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to ensure that wild populations of the houbara are sustainable," said Deputy Chairman of the IFHC Board Mohamed Ahmed Al Bowardi.

gBy extending the release of houbara across the Gulf, with the assistance of our neighbours, we can build on the successes we have already achieved and bring our ultimate goal closer to fruition,he added.

Thanking the other brother nations in the region for their support in this important initiative, Al Bowardi said: "Such unity of purpose not only provides a greater chance for success in the area of conservation, but also serves to strengthen the bonds that tie us together."

A total of 4,405 Asian houbara bustards were released within the UAE as part of the Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Reintroduction Project to restore wild resident populations in the country. This surpasses the previous record of 1,292 birds released in the country during a single season by almost 250 per cent.

This record number was further boosted by the release of houbara bustards in the Arabian peninsula countries. Of the birds provided, Qatar received 1,000, Kuwait 250 and Yemen 200.

Expansion of the number of sites to release houbara bustards in the wild is another sign of the progress that has been made by the fund, which was established in 2006 by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces .

As well as spreading out across the Gulf, the number of viable release sites within the UAE has greatly increased, growing from just a single site in 2004 to 25 in the UAE this year.

IFHC's Director-General Mohammed Saleh Al Baidani, said, "This record release of Asian houbara into the wild follows on from a record year for our captive breeding programme."

Stating that it represented significant progress towards restoring sustainable wild populations of houbara, he said: "By releasing houbara in other Gulf countries we aim to increase the numbers of birds residing and breeding in the region to increase numbers so wild populations achieve long-term sustainability."

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