KARACHI: A large number of rare species of birds, houbara bustards, which had been bred and raised in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) before being brought to Pakistan, were released into the wild in Cholistan desert, it emerged on Monday.

This was the second and largest batch of the rare birds released in the southern Punjab desert this year.

Raised by the Inter­national Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) at its UAE facility, the birds were released into the wild by its local partner Houbara Foundation International Pakistan (HBIP), a non-governmental organisation, after they were brought here aboard a special flight.

Before bringing in the birds proper legal documentation (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species — CITES — export and import permits from the UAE and Pakistan governments) had been carried out, said HBIP chief retired Brig Mukhtar while talking to this reporter on Monday.

The HBIP chief, who released the rare houbara bustard in the desert, said the birds were quarantined, checked and certified by the animal health officials before their release in small batches at some distance from each other so that they spread over a larger area.

Brig Mukhtar said this time 1,000 birds had been released while 500 birds had been released earlier jointly by the IFHC and the HFIP in March this year.

He said desert vegetation had been profusely green due to abundance of rains in Cholistan for the past two consecutive years. He said the foundation in collaboration with Pakistan Army had also been carrying out aerial broadcast of seeds of desert vegetation for over 22 years to restore the habitat. Some of the birds, which had been released earlier this year, had nested and hatched chicks in the arid region, he added.

The houbara population across the world had been facing serious decline owing to loss of habitat and illegal trapping, poaching and hunting.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2020