Did you Know?
  • Feeding on shrubs, the Spiny-tailed Lizard never drinks water and is capable of changing colour with body temperature, turning from black to white or yellow as the lizard warms up

Conservation of the Asian Houbara Bustard in the UAE-Cultural contexts and Initiatives

Basil Roy


Over the past few decades the Asian Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis macqueenii), and the African Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata) have been classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. This phenomenon is due to the over-cultivation of the houbaras’ natural habitat, desertification, and the extensive hunting of the species. The houbara bustard is a historically symbolic bird, most notably associated with falcon hunting. The conservation of houbara is important for both environmental and cultural reasons. It has a unique status in Emirati culture. Just like the Arabian Oryx, the Houbara Bustard has been overhunted; and similarly, great efforts have been made to increase their populations. This paper focuses on the cultural position of the houbara, looking back on the historical significance of the houbara. Also, falcon hunters have been interviewed to determine attitudes regarding its cultural significance, the level of awareness regarding the vulnerability of the houbara, and whether or not they are willing to consider alternative hunting practices. This paper also discusses conservation efforts being done in the UAE. Working with conservation organisations such as The National Avian Research Center and the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve allowed me to collect field data and determine whether or not these initiatives are successfully increasing houbara populations in the UAE. The U.A. E’s houbara conservation initiative is highly achievable given the right strategy and planning. Linking the survival of the houbara bustard to the ancient art of falconry has proved to be successful, not only conserving the United Arab Emirates natural environment but also its identity.