Abu Dhabi: A survey of falconers in the Gulf has found that while a large majority are aware of sustainable levels of hunting (65 per cent) just as many (66 per cent) believe the numbers of the endangered Houbara bustard 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) during the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (ADIHEX) which attracts falconers from across the region.
Mohammed Saleh Al Baidani, Director General IFHC, said: “Falconers are a key stakeholder in the efforts to conserve the Houbara bustard. They provide a vital source of information about the health of the Houbara population on the ground and add to our understanding of this shy bird. The future of falconry, an essential aspect of our culture and heritage, is directly linked to the preservation of the Houbara. I am encouraged by the survey results which show that falconers understand the concept of sustainable hunting, which is the most effective approach to ensuring future generations continue to enjoy the Houbara bustard in the wild.” The survey, carried out at previous ADIHEX events, provides a fascinating insight into the culture of falconry in the region. The respondents aged from 16 to 65 have overwhelmingly (75 per cent) learnt about falconry through their family. The survey also confirmed that the majority of falconers (76 per cent) rank the Houbara as their favourite prey.
The results also highlight some discrepancies with the latest ecological studies. Only a minority (38 per cent) believe correctly that the GCC region is home to both resident and migratory populations of the Asian Houbara. While 47 per cent of respondents stated that Asian Houbara wintering in GCC originate from Kazakhstan, some 40 per cent of the respondents thought that wintering Houbara in these countries come from Pakistan. Scientifically it has been found that wintering houbara in GCC region breed in Central Asia (including Khazakstan) and China. Kazakhstan represents also an important country for Houbara conservation as it accommodates almost 80% of the breeding population of this species.
Education is an important aspect of the work of IFHC and is the theme of its participation at ADIHEX this year. As well as completing a survey during ADIHEX, falconers can also provide their feedback at any time via IFHC’s new website (www.houbarafund.org). Al Baidani added: “I would encourage all falconers to work with us as together we have a much better chance of conserving the Houbara and preserving falconry for future generations.”