Lal Suhanra gets hundreds of captive-bred houbara bustards

Move aimed at augmenting the population of vulnerable species

Our Correspondent March 03, 2017
The birds being released by officials in Lal Suhanra National Park. PHOTO: ONLINE

BAHAWALPUR: More than 300 Houbara bustards from the Pakistan-resident species bloodline, given as a gift by Abu Dhabi government, have been released into the wild in Lal Suhanra National Park, Bahawalpur on Friday. The birds were released with an aim to augment the population of the specie which is considered by international conservationists to be a vulnerable species.

The birds released had been individually tagged with identification rings and satellite transmitters to help scientists in monitoring them. The data will be generated bi-weekly in order to detect movements, habitat preferences and breeding behaviours. The birds’ locations will be communicated to the Houbara Foundation for field validation and further investigations.

Established in 1995, the Houbara Foundation International Pakistan works in collaboration with reputed conservation organisations and law-enforcement authorities to curb the trend of hunting, illegal trapping and loss of habitat that all contribute to the decline in wild houbara populations in the country.

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Houbara Foundation said the move would add to several previous bird releases in previous years. Earlier, 600 birds and 200 birds were released in Pakistan in March 2015 and February 2016, respectively.

Since the bustards are originally from Pakistan’s resident houbara population, the organisation hopes most of them will settle easily for breeding.

The houbara bustard migrates from the Central Asia to Pakistan every year in the winters and returns to its breeding grounds after the end of season. Despite a ban on its hunting, the government issues between 25 and 35 special hunting permits annually to wealthy Arab dignitaries, who like to hunt the bird both as a sport and because its meat is considered an aphrodisiac.

The Abu Dhabi-based International Fund’s research centres are involved with the preservation of all houbara populations ranging from Mongolia to Morocco, encompassing North African, Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries.

The breeding programme in Abu Dhabi had bred over 206,000 houbara bustards, of which around 137,831 birds have been released into the wild. The International Fund for Houbara Conservation is now producing over 50,000 houbara every year.

Earlier, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif had approved the grant of Rs250 million for Houbara bustard endowment fund. The fund will be utilised for the rehabilitation centre and breeding of the rare bird.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2017.


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