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Giving shy houbara a fresh lease of life.

Abu Dhabi The speckled, sandy brown bird is invisible to most people who pass it by at the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex), and the shy creature, known as the houbara, keeps to itself.

In the desert, this beautiful bird has been well known to those whose falcons have preyed upon it for hundreds of years. And it has provided an essential food source for bedouin populations.

Over the years, however, unregulated hunting and poaching, as well as increasing urbanisation, have threatened the survival of the migratory houbaras all over the world, a spokesperson for the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) told Gulf News in the capital yesterday.


"The danger is not only to the three houbara species, but the dwindling numbers of this bird also threaten the long-standing practice and heritage of falconry in the region," said Delphine Delire, head of communications and public relations at the IFHC.

"The IFHC, therefore, runs a breeding and release programme so that the houbara population can be increased worldwide, and the Emirati heritage of falconry can be preserved," she added.

Delire was speaking at the ninth edition of Adihex, where the IFHC is running a special campaign to increase awareness about the endangered houbara.

The houbara is currently listed as critically endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

"Our breeding programme now has a goal of producing 50,000 birds annually, part of which we can release into the wild, and we have three reserves dedicated to this process in the Western Region. However, we also want to create awareness about the birds among younger generations so that they can take on these conservation initiatives and preserve the creatures and the related falconry traditions," Delire said. To that end, the fund is working to include lessons about the houbara within the Abu Dhabi Education Council curriculum, and to run a campaign to educate young children who visit the Adihex, she added.

The organisation is one of a number of local and international agencies promoting animal welfare and conservation campaigns at this year's four-day exhibition.

Such initiatives have been gaining momentum at the Adihex with every passing year.

Major goals

Abdullah Butti Al Qubaisi, Adihex event director and communication director at the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), said sustaining the ancient practice of falconry, as well as endangered species such as the wild falcon, had been one of the major goals when the first Adihex was held in 2001.

The 31,000 square metre event also saw the announcement of next year's racing calendar for the Shaikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies Fegentri Cup, which is targeted at amateur female riders.

Hunting and wildlife enthusiasts have been flocking to the exhibition since it kicked off on Wednesday, and the event has also been a hit with children.

Almond Cafarella, a 35-year-old teacher from Australia, said he had brought his six-year-old daughter to Adihex to give her a "taste of tradition".


piercing passion

Mohammad Al Amiri has always been in love with hunting knives. Their precision, grip and strength fascinate the 30-year-old, who now heads up Tamreen, one of the premier hunting knife manufacturers and retailers in the country. "I have 400 or more knives in my personal collection, and I decided to translate this passion into a career," Al Amiri told Gulf News.

Tamreen's stand at the Adihex has hundreds of knives for sale, including some rare pieces with meteorite handles, and nine diamond-encrusted pieces from exclusive American manufacturer William Henry Studio. "There are only 10 of these worldwide and although they can be used as accessories, they are equally functional. With Adihex's growing importance, we hope to sell these unique pieces here," Al Amiri said.

-- S.Z.

at a glance

What: Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex)

When: September 14-17

Where: Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre

Timings: 11am to 10pm


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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Sep 16, 2011
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