Release of 500 captive-bred Houbara bustard in Pakistan
Article by: Lt Col (Retd) Ernest Shams
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.