Houbara bustard hatchlings.
Houbara bustard hatchlings.

KARACHI: Amid all gloom and doom due to the coronavirus pandemic, some good news has come from the wildlife conservation in Cholistan desert where three chicks of a rare species of captive bred houbara bustard have hatched.

The birds of Pakistani bloodline were bred by a United Arab Emirates-based organisation and released by it in collaboration with a local non-governmental organisation in the southern Punjab desert last year.

At least some of the released birds, it seems, have survived the harsh conditions of Cholistan, laid the eggs which hatched giving hope that the birds have settled for breeding, indicating their liking for Pakistani desert temperature and food.

Responding to queries, chief of the Pakistani NGO, Houbara Foundation (HF), retired Brigadier Mukhtar Ahmed said that the birds of the bloodline of Pakistan’s resident population in Nag Valley (Balochistan) were bred in captivity by the UAE-based International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) and were brought in here last year. He said both organisations had released those birds in Cholistan desert.

The bustards were released into the desert last year

He said that transmitters were put on some of the released houbaras to monitor their locations and see if they stayed back, or travelled to central Asia along with the migratory houbara population. The transmitter-fitted houbaras’ movement is monitored through satellites by the IFHC.

Brig Ahmed said that some time back the IFHC informed the HF about the locations where some of the released houbaras were staying for many hours. Acting on the information, he added, survey teams of the HF were sent to those locations where they found the female birds ­brooding the eggs.

He said that the teams equipped with high-powered binoculars kept a vigil from a distance so as not to disturb the bird, which is very shy and sensing any threat would abandon the nest/eggs. In due time, the teams that had found the eggs also spotted the hatched chicks.

Since the birds belonged to the Nag Valley houbara population, he expressed the hope that as the situation improved in Balochistan the birds would be released there as well so that it could augment the resident population.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2020

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