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.
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.
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.
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.