posted on 16/09/2012: 777 views
One year ago, dozens of falconers from the Gulf have been asked about their knowledge of the houbara bustard and the threats of over-hunting.
The survey showed that while a large majority of falconers are aware of what sustainable hunting means (65 per cent) just as many (66 per cent) believe the numbers of the endangered bird in the wild are still declining and that poaching and unregulated hunting are by far the main reasons for this decline (cited by 58 per cent of respondents).
The survey results have been released by the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), at the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex), which attracted large number of falconers.
"This first survey proved very useful to us, so we decided to do it again at this year's Adihex,” said Mohammed Saleh Al Baidani, Director-General of the IFHC.
The 2012 falconers' survey began at Adihex on September 5 and will continue until the end of the year with questionnaires sent to falconers from all over the Gulf via e-mail or through IFHC's new website. The results will be released in 2013.
Al Baidani hopes that falconers will have good understanding of sustainable hunting, which means going after quarry that is abundant in the wild and not point and shoot at everything that moves.
In this respect, traditional hunting, using only falcons and not riffles, would be a lot more desirable so that this vulnerable bird may stand chance.
For millennia, Arabs practised the art of falconry to hunt in the desert for birds, mammals and reptiles.
Falconry was a necessary skill to survive in this harsh land and the houbara was the most desirable of all prey.
Bedouins, however, lived in harmony with the land and the balance of desert life was maintained.
According to myth, in Arabia the houbara meat was even considered an aphrodisiac.
Like other bustards, houbara is largely terrestrial and considered one of the heaviest flying birds. It measures 55-65cm in length and spans 135-170cm across the wings. Males weigh up to 2.4 kg while females may reach 1.7kg.
"Few falconers of today need to hunt the houbara in order to survive, but despite this, falconry has grown as a sport and pursuit of the houbara bustard has increased. Now poaching, unregulated hunting and habitat loss pose a much greater threat to the houbara than at any time in history,” said Al Baidani.
In 2011 alone, the IFHC bred 20,475 Asian and North African houbara in its centres in Morocco and Kazakhstan, and Swaihan in the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi. At home, there were 2,727 Asian houbara chicks born in captivity with an encouraging 53 per cent survival rate.
In the same time, the number of houbara released into the wild was a record 13,400, reaching the milestone figure of 50,000 since the houbara release programme began in 1998 with just two birds released in North Africa. Some 1,350 of them were released in 10 different locations across the UAE.
Judging by a captive-bred released male that migrated from wintering ground in Iraq to its breeding ground in Kazakhstan for the second consecutive year, the captive-bred houbara is capable of having the same life pattern as the wild houbara, which would be the ultimate success of this programme. – Khaleej Times
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