Largest ever release of Houbara takes UAE conservation programme to new level

Two thousand birds were released on April 14 in Kazakhstan as part of the latest phase of Abu Dhabi’s world-leading programme to restore wild populations of the species.

The largest single release of Asian houbara has taken place in Kazakhstan in another boost to the preservation of the rare species.

Two thousand birds were tagged and released into the wild in conservation zones on April 14, conservation officials said.

It was the latest phase of Abu Dhabi’s world-leading programme to restore wild populations of the bustards.

The Asian houbara were bred at the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) centre in Abu Dhabi last year and then flown to the Sheikh Khalifa Breeding Centre in Kazakhstan.

“This is a very significant day in the history of houbara conservation,” said Mohammed Al Baidani, director general of the IFHC.

“Previously, we have only carried out small-scale experimental releases in Kazakhstan in order to learn more about the migration and habits of the houbara. But a release on this scale takes our efforts to a completely new level.”

All of the birds were tagged but some were also fitted with GPS devices, and the data gleaned will provide vital information about migration and survival.

This will assist the houbara programme pioneered in Abu Dhabi.

The centre in Kazakhstan is the fourth in the world managed as part of the IFHC’s international efforts to preserve the species.

It is estimated that Kazakhstan is home to 80 per cent of the world’s houbara.

During their migration, the houbara travel thousands of kilometres, with some arriving in the Arabian Peninsula to escape severe winters in Central Asia.

There has been a long-standing relationship between the UAE and Kazakhstan. Abu Dhabi ecologists conducted field studies there in the 1990s, and in 2007 the decision was made to build a permanent breeding centre there.

Published: May 6, 2014 04:00 AM