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Category: Hourbara Release

Release of 500 captive-bred Houbara bustard in Pakistan

Release of 500 captive-bred Houbara bustard in Pakistan

Release of 500 captive-bred Houbara bustard in Pakistan

Article by: Lt Col (Retd) Ernest Shams

Photographs: Azmatullah

International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) Abu Dhabi and Houbara Foundation International Pakistan jointly released 500 Houbara Bustard in Pakistan early this month of March 2017. These birds were bred in captivity by the National Avian Research Centre in Sweihan (Abu Dhabi) and released in Lal Sohanra National Park near Bahawalpur and other places of the Cholistan Desert.

In the past several years also, IFHC released hundreds of birds in Pakistan, amongst which the largest numbers were 600 Houbara in March 2015 and 200 Houbara in February 2016.

Since the birds are of the blood-line of Pakistan’s resident Houbara population, it is hoped that most of the birds will settle in their breeding ground in Balochistan, to repopulate the area and reinforce Pakistan’s current population of the species in the wild.

A recent report published by IFHC reveals a revolutionary success in their breeding programme by producing over 50,000 Houbara Bustard across their breeding centres; releasing hundreds of captive-bred birds to help sustain existing wild populations; and expanding the number of countries, including Pakistan, where the Houbara are being released.

Ever since the breeding programme began, over 206,000 Houbara have been bred. Of these, around 137,831 birds have been released into the wild.

Having been under highly specialized care, the birds brought to Pakistan were well-prepared to manage themselves in the wild. All the birds were individually tagged with identification rings, while selected birds were also tagged with satellite transmitters, for scientists to carry out monitoring of the birds after release and record their movements, habitat preferences and ability to breed.

Satellite data will be generated bi-weekly and locations of the birds will be communicated to Houbara Foundation International Pakistan for field validation and further investigations.

Before being moved from Abu Dhabi to Pakistan by air, the birds were closely examined and certified fit for release in nature.

All local cooperation was provided by Houbara Foundation and the Punjab Wildlife Department for receiving the birds and for their scientific release, under CITES Export and Import Permits along with necessary NOC which were exchanged between the two establishments in Abu Dhabi and Pakistan prior to transfer.

rig Mukhtar Ahmed releasing Houbara
Brig (Retd) Mukhtar Ahmed, President Houbara Foundation International Pakistan releases a Houbara Bustard

 

Houbara Bustard in flight

Release of Houbara Bustard in Pakistan by International Fund for Houbara Conservation, Abu Dhabi

Release of Houbara Bustard in Pakistan by International Fund for Houbara Conservation, Abu Dhabi

200 Houbara Bustard were jointly released by Houbara Foundation International Pakistan and International Fund for Houbara Conservation (Abu Dhabi) in Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Deer Breeding & Houbara Research Centre on 15th February 2016. This Centre was established a year ago in March 2015 over a vast area measuring 16 km x 4 km of the desert area of Lal Sohanra National Park, Bahawalpur, when a three times larger flock of the species, the largest number, were released. The huge enclosure is fenced and guarded to prevent illegal hunting, trapping, trespassing by local communities and their livestock, and to provide a rich habitat to the species.

The birds released were of the blood-line of Balochistan’s resident species, bred in captivity in Abu Dhabi and donated to Pakistan by the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, to reinforce the resident wild population of the species in Pakistan.

Mr Majid Al-Mansouri and Mr Mohammed Saleh Al Baidani of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, Brig Mukhtar Ahmed, President of Houbara Foundation International Pakistan, and Mr Khalid Ayaz Khan, Director General Punjab Wildlife & Parks Department released the birds.

Cages in which Houbara brought for release
Cages in which Houbara brought for release

All the birds, 600 in 2015 and 200 in this year were fitted with identification rings, while 30 of the birds in each flock were tagged with Argos-GPS transmitters, which are sending data twice weekly to help the International Fund and Houbara Foundation in monitoring the location of the birds; their migration patterns and breeding behaviours.

Argos-GPS transmitters
Argos-GPS transmitters, used for monitoring the location of the birds; their migration patterns and breeding behaviours

Evidence has shown that the flock released in Lal Sohanra National Park last year settled in and around the area despite the harsh summer temperatures of the Cholistan Desert.

Released Houbara in the freedom of the wild
Released Houbara in the freedom of the wild

Both flocks were transferred from Abu Dhabi to Pakistan by air in accordance with CITES regulations, permits and NOCs having been exchanged between the two countries well in advance.

Before being flown to Pakistan the birds were subjected to an assessment for health and their ability to survive in the wild and formal Veterinary Health Certificate was issued by the UAE’s Ministry of Water and Environment.

This year’s release became another milestone in the conservation project of the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan to improve wild stocks of the Asian houbara in Pakistan while the International Fund’s breeding programme has touched a landmark figure of 2,06,000 birds ever since the programme began. 46,014 Houbara chicks were produced in 2014 alone.

After the release, Mr Majid Al Mansouri wrote in the Visitors Book, “It’s a pleasure to see how this site developed and became a reserve for different wildlife species. I wish you the best.”

Release of the birds was a source of total joy to those who were present on the occasion.

All local cooperation was provided by Houbara Foundation for receiving the birds at the airport and their scientific release back to nature.

 

 

 

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