Abu Dhabi: With its own independent stand for the first time this year at the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (ADIHEX), the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) announced it has exceeded yearly expectations of Asian Houbara release into the wild.
“This year has been remarkable to us in terms of success. We have exceeded our target of releasing 10,000 birds by 3,000 bringing that number up to a total of 13,000 Asian Houbara birds produced in the UAE. Yet our mission to raise awareness on sustainable hunting has not ended,” said the Fund’s Director General, Mohammad Saleh Al Baidani.
The IFHC'S stand this year features live Houbara, and a play performed by primary and middle school students at the Al Yaher Public School.
“Educating future hunters and falconers is our main focus this year which is why we are working closely with the Abu Dhabi Education Council and would like to see more schools taking interest in the Houbara,” said Delphine Delire, head of the IFHC'S communications and public relations department.
According to experts, among some of the many reasons which have caused a decline in the Houbara population in the UAE, is the demolition of its natural habitat to use the land for city development.
Another reason, the Director General revealed, is that many trap these birds and take them from their habits in order to train their falcons how to hunt. “Many falconers have drifted away from traditional methods of hunting, by over-trapping Houbara birds, which are not the falcon’s natural prey in the first place. So the falcon becomes accustomed to hunting Houbara and begins to prey on them,” Al Baidani said.
Some hunters are poaching the Houbara by killing it using shotguns, giving the bird a zero survival chance in that case, as opposed to the slight chance of escape the Houbara gets when being hunted by a falcon.
“A reason for this is the difference in mentality that modern hunters have as opposed to their forefathers who grew up in harsh conditions and were accustomed to giving back to nature as much as they took from it. Older generations would return a falcon to the wild after using it, but newer generations grew up differently so they are behaving differently,” Al Baidani said.
Throughout the Exhibition’s four days, the IFHC will be distributing surveys aimed at falconers to determine how many Houbara birds will be needed to be bred, and how severe over-trapping is.
“Another issue we face is that we cannot determine the size of the black market, which is why these surveys are important. Although people will not reveal to us who is trapping the Houbara, and who is selling and buying them, the statistics we collect are useful for a rough estimate on how much more we need to do to fill the gap between how many Houbara we currently have and how many we need in the wild,” Al Baidani added.
These issues were all raised at a roundtable discussion which took place at the falconry section of ADIHEX 2012 as hundreds gathered around to purchase weapons, falcons and even to adopt homeless animals from the Environment Agency stand.
This year’s exhibition includes participants from 40 different countries and has attracted visitors from across the globe including many from neighbouring GCC countries coming forward to the largest exhibition of its kind in the region.
Children, adults, experts and VIPs alike gathered around the various items and activities representing the Emirati culture, giving all visitors a chance to learn more on endangered animals, hunting equipment and locally-made items while watching rare shows being performed by Arabian horses, camels and police dogs.