PESHAWAR, Nov 27: Houbara bustard, a coveted quarry of falconers, have started their journey from freezing Central Asian states to Pakistan. “The migratory birds arrive here every year in November from Siberia, Mongolia and Central Asian republics and return in February-March,” Dr Mumtaz Malik, Chief Conservator NWFP Wildlife Department told APP here on Sunday.

He says all desert plains and arid areas in the Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan are Houbara's winter habitats where sufficient food is available for them. The desert bird, which eats small insects, migrates in thousands to Pakistan over high altitude, he added.

Dr Malik said the shy bird migrates in stages by passing through Afghanistan and Iran and flying over Chitral and through Zhob valley.

“Houbara lays two eggs. One of the reasons of Houbara's decrease is its low rate of reproduction,” he said, adding that Cholistan, Therparker, Changi and DI Khan were well known areas for Houbara population.

Replying to a question about artificial breeding, Dr Mumtaz said it was being carried out in the UAE and Saudi Arabia but it was under extremely controlled conditions and the method was very expensive.

About the role of NGOs on preservation and protection of endangered species including Houbara, he said interest of NGOs in this field had declined with passage of time.

According to wildlife experts, its population is rapidly declining in Afghanistan, Iran, India, Pakistan, the UAE, Maracoo, Saudi Arabia and Central Asian republics due to excessive hunting, poaching and onslaughts on its habitats.

Houbara is listed under a convention on migratory species of wild animals known as the Bonn Convention. The World Conservation Union has declared it as endangered specie. The NWFP Wildlife department has taken scores of measures for protection and preservation of all endangered species including Houbara and Snow Leopard, Dr Mumtaz Malik said, adding that special directives had been issued to the wildlife staff to increase patrolling during Houbara's migratory season and check its hunting and trapping.-—APP

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