Customs officers in Ras Al Khaimah have foiled an attempt to smuggle 12 live Houbara birds into the UAE inside a car tyre.
The endangered birds were placed inside small plastic bags in pairs before being tucked into the ripped wall of a spare wheel.
The houbara bustard, which falconers have traditionally hunted throughout the Gulf region, is classified as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
For years their numbers had been in decline due to poaching and unregulated hunting, but over the last decade various conservation projects have helped increase their population.
Customs officers in RAK are understood to have discovered the birds in a vehicle at the Al Darah border crossing with Oman.
The spare tyre which the birds were hidden in is thought to have been in the vehicle's boot.
Smuggling Houbara birds is illegal under UAE law and is punishable by a maximum jail term of six months as well as a fine of up to Dh50,000.
Over the past 40 years, the Emirates has been involved in a number of projects aimed at restoring their population in the region.
Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father of the UAE, initiated a breeding programme in 1982 and around 350,000 chicks have since been bred and released.
In 2006, the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) was set up by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, to accelerate the country's conservation efforts.