Houbara Bustard is a large terrestrial bird protected internationally. These birds usually find their habitats in parts of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. There are two Houbara Bustard species. Namely, North African Houbara or Chlamydotis undulate and the Asian Houbara or Chlamydotis macqueenii. Every year, during winters, between November and December, the Houbara Bustard migrates to Pakistan from Mongolia, Siberia, and the Central Asian Republics. In Balochistan, Pakistan, the Houbara Bustard is called the provincial bird' of Balochistan.
Distinctive Features of Houbara Bustard
Following are the physical attributes of the bird -
- The bird is dull brown and has black markings on the wings.
- It has a greyish neck and a black ruff along the side of the neck.
- The length of Houbara Bustard usually ranges between 55-65 cm, while their width ranges between 135-170 cm across the wings.
- The body mass is 1.15-2.4 kg for males, and for females, it is 1-1.7 kg.
Why is Houbara Bustard Endangered?
According to the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), the population of Houbara Bustard is rapidly declining due to increased poaching, unregulated hunting, and depleting natural habitats. As per the IFHC reports, approximately 42,000 Asian houbara bustards and over 22,000 North African houbara bustards remain in the world. Considering this small population, it becomes crucial to conserve the Houbara Bustards to prevent extinction.
Why was Houbara Bustard in News?
The Houbara Bustard is important news because recently, the Pakistan government permitted the Arab Royals to hunt the internationally protected bird during the 2020-21 hunting season. As per the news report, eleven members of the United Arab Emirates landed in Pakistan's Panjgur district in Balochistan to hunt the internationally protected bird. It is reported that the Pakistan Foreign Ministry issued special permits to the crown prince of Dubai, Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, and their five other family members to hunt the Houbara Bustard during the 2020-21 hunting season.
The History of Hunting Houbara Bustard
Hunting of Houbara Bustard is not a new event in Pakistan; for the past four decades, Pakistan has organised such hunting expeditions to strengthen its ties with the Gulf and the Arab nations. Usually, in these expeditions, each individual is allowed to hunt a maximum of 100 Houbara Bustard in a designated area. However, in reality, such hunting expeditions lead to the widespread killing of this endangered species. For instance, in 2014, a Saudi Arabian Prince killed nearly 2100 Houbara Bustards in his 21-days hunting safari. This incident led to a nationwide outrage from conservationists. Consequently, in 2015, the Pakistan Supreme Court imposed a blanket ban on the hunting of Houbara Bustard however, this ban was later revoked.
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Houbara Bustard is a critically endangered species of migratory birds. These birds usually find their habitat in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Currently, only a few thousand Houbara Bustards remain in the world. Despite the knowledge of their declining numbers, the Pakistan Government granted special permissions to Arab royals to hunt these internationally protected birds during the hunting season of 2020-21. This attracted international attention, and the Pakistan Ministry received a significant backlash.
FAQs on Houbara Bustard
Q.1. What is the Houbara Bustard called in Pakistan?
In Pakistan, the Houbara Bustard is known as the provincial bird of Balochistan.
Q.2. Name the two species of Houbara Bustard.
The two species of Houbara Bustard are -
- North African Houbara or Chlamydotis undulata
- Asian Houbara or Chlamydotis macqueenii
Q.3. During the 2020-21 hunting season, who did the Pakistan Government grant permission to hunt the Houbara Bustard?
The Pakistan Foreign Ministry issues permission to the crown prince of Dubai, Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, and five other family members to hunt the Houbara Bustard.
Q.4. How many Asian Houbara Bustards remain today?
Approx. 42,000 Asian Houbara Bustards remain today.
Q.5. How many North African Houbara Bustards remain today?
Approx. 22,000 North African Houbara Bustards remain today.