Students with a falcon during Adihex last year. Around 100,000 people visited Adihex last year. More visitors are expected this year thanks to activities for families and schoolchildren. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: An annual international hunting and equestrian exhibition in the capital has helped minimise environmental crimes, such as hunting and smuggling of endangered species, a senior official said.

“The Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex) helped transform the concept of ‘traditional hunting’ into ‘sustainable hunting’ thanks to environmental awareness created by the event during the past 15 years,” said Majid Ali Al Mansouri, chairman of Adihex’s higher organising committee and secretary general of the Emirates Falconers’ Club.

One example of that transformation is the hunting of the Houbara Bustard, an endangered bird. This large-bodied bird, with long legs and a slender neck, has been an integral part of traditional Emirati hunts. “Now, hunters use captive-bred Houbara as prey while hunting, not the wild birds,” the official told Gulf News in an interview.

The awareness sessions and activities conducted by the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), EAD and the Emirates Falconers’ Club at the Adihex have been attracting many visitors, the official said.

“Emiratis going on hunting trips in and out of the UAE now have a better understanding of endangered species and their conservation,” said Al Mansouri, a former secretary general of the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD).

The increased awareness has also helped minimise the smuggling of endangered species into the UAE, the official said. “Now, people will ask whether a species [for sale] is a captive-bred or wild. This enhanced awareness is visible in the UAE community,” Al Mansouri said. “This is the major achievement of this 15-year long annual exhibition,” he said.

“This has been the message of those awareness activities: ‘You may continue the tradition of hunting but do it in a sustainable manner’. People have accepted that message,” Al Mansouri said.

Adihex’s 16th edition will begin on Tuesday, September 25, and run until Saturday, September 29 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec).

Around 100,000 people visited Adihex last year and the number would rise this year, also attracted by increased activities for families and schoolchildren, Al Mansouri said. “We have focused a lot on social media promotions this year and some of our posts have received 700,000 to 1.5 million hits on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”

There will be more exhibitors from Saudi Arabia this year, along with others from 40 countries.

Tina Al Qubaisi, CEO and founder of Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, told Gulf News that a treasure hunting competition would be organised for children, based on a question asked about Abu Dhabi and Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The children have to visit five stands at the exhibition and find the answers. It will be held every morning of the exhibition.

Between 100 and 250 children have registered for each day. “At least 50 per cent of them may participate in the treasure hunt. The winners will get gift packs,” Al Qubaisi said.