Wednesday, January 22, 2014

United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan Sign a Pact to Protect the Houbara Bustard

Houbara bustard

It has been recently reported that the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) and Kazakhstan have signed an agreement to collaborate for the protection of the endangered houbara bustard. At a special function held in Abu Dhabi, the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) and the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan formed an agreement to "protect, breed, and restore" the houbara bustard population. Under the leadership of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and in alignment with his plan of action to provide viable future for the bustard at the core of local culture and tradition, the pact counts on an everlasting and successful relationship between the two nations. The focus of the agreement deals with preparations for the Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Breeding Center-Kazakhstan (SKHBC-KZ), which is the fourth in the world to be run as part of the IFHC's international efforts to protect the houbara bustards. The ultimate goal of the center is to breed and release up to 10,000 bustards every year. In addition to arrangements for breeding the bustards, the agreement will also help in the development protection zones and habitat preservation. In addition, it also emphasizes current principles of conservation partnership such as protecting diversity and wild species, and respecting cultural values, particularly the heritage stature of falconry.
Houbara bustard displaying

This article gives a model example about saving and protecting an endangered species through joint cooperation between countries. It elaborates on what measurements the U.A.E and Kazakhstan will be taking, in order to ensure the survival of the houbara bustard. This example should be followed by other countries around the world, who are looking for ways to guarantee full-scale protection of their local wildlife. The houbara bustard may appear to have a hopeful future, particularly in the wilds of Kazakhstan due to this joint agreement, but it in other countries of its native range, the situation might be grim. For example, in Pakistan, the houbara bustard population was threatened when the government issued 25 hunting permits for the 2012-2013 season. Each permit allowed 100 birds to be hunted by the holder, and majority of the permits were provided to the royal dignitaries from Arab states. Ironically, one of these states were the U.A.E while others included Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. This indicates that while the houbara bustard may be protected, it is still being targeted for hunting like it was thousands of years ago. If any of the Arab states are keen on protecting the bustard and want to see it flourish, they should refrain from hunting it or providing permits to each other to hunt it. They should focus on conservation efforts comprised of breeding, releasing, and protecting the bird, along with establishing protection zones and preserving its natural habitat. However, this does not mean that Arab states should abandon the practice of falconry. Instead of targeting bustards and other birds, falconers should use lures in order to encourage their falcons to do what they do best.
The great Indian bustard, a relative of the houbara bustard, is a critically endangered species.

While the houbara bustard seems to be in good hands regarding its conservation, the situation is unknown for its relative the great Indian bustard which is still listed as "critically endangered" with no more than 300 birds remaining in India. Much of the threats the great Indian bustard has faced and continues to face are human encroachment and habitat destruction of grasslands. This concept has been emphasized by ornithologist Pramod Patil of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), who pointed out that grasslands are some of the most ignored ecosystems in India and urged for the drafting of a conservation policy for grasslands at both state and national levels. He further added that much of India's conservation efforts have focused mainly on the tiger population, which explains why forests are the only ecosystems being preserved and not the grasslands. This is a clear indication how conservation is limited to just one endangered species, and ignoring others. Conservation efforts should not be implemented based solely on the status of an endangered species and the type of habitat it occupies. Just because the tiger is India's national animal does not mean that it should be the main focus of the country's conservation. The Indian subcontinent is home to a rich variety of endangered species and natural habitats, and they should all be treated equally in terms of conservation. Conservationists should look at India's and other countries' biodiversities as a whole, and not focus on one particular habitat and its inhabitants. Furthermore, all countries must form joint partnerships in order to preserve and protect the world's wildlife. This, in turn, entails promising future for all endangered species.

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