• The symbolic gesture is in collaboration with Mohamed bin Zayed Falconry and Desert Physiognomy School with the participation of veterinary medicine students from the United Arab Emirates University

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: The International Fund for Houbara Conservation released 51 Asian houbara to mark the 51st National Day of the UAE in collaboration with Mohamed bin Zayed Falconry and Desert Physiognomy School and the participation of a group of UAE University’s veterinary medicine students. Each of the birds signifies a year of the 51 years since the union of the Emirates, the years of its development and the successes the nation has achieved. The occasion also coincides with the 40th anniversary of the hatching of the first houbara at Al Ain Zoo as part of their conservation program.

Commenting on the occasion, Mohammed Saleh Al Baidani, Director General of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, said: "With the symbolic release of houbara on this joyous occasion, we celebrate the fulfillment of the vision of the late founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, of sustaining our heritage and protecting houbara as a continuation of the houbara conservation programme he established in the 1970s. His vision came into reality with the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, under the mandates of the Board of Directors of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation."

This year, a group of veterinary medicine students from the United Arab Emirates University participated in the houbara release in conjunction with the launch of the higher education programme of the “Conservation Education: the Houbara Model", a national curriculum integration and cross-curricular programme by the IFHC. The launch follows the great success the curriculum integration has achieved on a national level in the public education sector with the support of the Ministry of Education and participating schools.

The symbolic houbara release was followed by a number of events packed with active participation of students and Fund representatives, which included a presentation and a lecture on natural habitat studies, field research, and a panel discussion on the role of veterinarians by two specialized experts and an experienced national falconer.

The annual release of new generations of houbara, which hatched in the care of the Fund's breeding centers, signifies the most important achievements of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, as it became a role model in the field of proactive wildlife conservation and intervention to restore the numbers of houbara in the UAE and other countries it inhabits.

Abu Dhabi's houbara conservation programme consists of a network of national and international locations and centers, built to restore and protect the houbara population in order

to achieve a sustainable number around the world. Globally, there are a total of 706,244 houbara that have been bred in captivity since 1996, while 423,223 houbaras have been released into the wild in their natural habitats in 17 different countries and regions since 1998. The IFHC also conducts field studies, scientific research and precise genetic management of

reproduction stocks to ensure genetic invulnerability and preservation of the genetic assets of migrant and non-migrant houbaras. The Fund also develops protective systems and legislation to safeguard the houbara population, with the aim of ensuring the sustainability of the species, raise communities’ awareness and involve them in the conservation efforts in cooperation with participating countries of habitat in Asia and North Africa.