2,000 endangered bustards released in Kazakhstan

Abu Dhabi, Following the initiative of United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, 2,000 captive-bred Asian Houbara, an endangered bustard, have been released in Kazakhstan.

It was the largest ever single release of the species in the wild.

"This is a very significant day in the history of Houbara conservation," Mohamed Saleh Al Baidani, director-general of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) that released the species, was quoted as saying in a statement Wednesday.

"Previously we have only carried out small-scale experimental releases in Kazakhstan in order to learn more about the migration and habits of the Houbara, but a release on this scale takes our efforts onto to a completely new level," Badani said.

The Houbara were flown by transport plane to Shymkent close to the Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Breeding Centre - Kazakhstan (SKHBC - KZ).

Upon arrival, the birds were immediately taken to three release sites situated within designated protected zones in south (Kyzyl-Kum), central (Betpak-Dala) and west (Mangystan) in Kazakhstan.

While all of the Houbara were tagged with identification rings, 93 of the birds were fitted with GPS satellite tracking devices (equally split across the three sites) with an additional 20 females fitted with VHF transmitters and released in Betpak-Dala.

The data from the tracking devices will provide vital clues about migration and survival to supplement the Houbara ecology programme pioneered in Abu Dhabi.

The range of the Asian Houbara stretches from Egypt in the west to Mongolia in the east, but Kazakhstan is a strategically important country within the species range.

It is estimated that the country is home to 80 percent of the world's migratory Asian Houbara population.

During their migration, the Houbara travel thousands of kilometres and some arrive in the Arabian peninsula to escape the very cold winter in Central Asia.

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