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The International Fund for Houbara Conservation participates in the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28. Climate change exacerbates the challenges facing efforts to restore houbara populations in North Africa.

 Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 15 December 2023: The International Fund for Houbara Conservation participated in the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, which was hosted by the United Arab Emirates at Expo sites in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, 2023, in a framework of its efforts to lead and advance global efforts towards a comprehensive and decisive response to put the world back on track for climate action. As part of the Fund’s scientific contributions on the second day of the conference, Dr. Yves Hingrat, Research Director at the International Wildlife Consultants (RENECO), shared scientific insights on how climate change intensifies challenges in restoring the houbara population in North Africa, as revealed by recent scientific studies conducted under the programme. Dr. Yves Hingrat highlighted that few decades ago, populations of houbara in Morocco were at the brink of extinction due mainly to unregulated hunting. Abu Dhabi's efforts, including the implementation of a captive breeding programme at the Emirates Centre for Wildlife Propagation (ECWP) since 1995, coupled with regulated hunting, have successfully preserved the genetic diversity of the species in captivity. This has not only halted the decline but also restored wild populations through periodic reinforcements with captive-bred bustards. These initiatives also contribute to preserving the heritage of traditional falconry. However, the achievement of species restoration success hinges on the sustained viability of reintroduced wild populations over the long term, free from ongoing human intervention. the research demonstrates that these factors hinder a positive population growth, even in situations where full protection is in place, evidenced by persistently low survival rates and insufficient productivity. Recent studies underlined the importance of temperature and rainfall in controlling the survival, movement and reproduction of bustards in the wild. These two key climate parameters have shown dramatic changes in the past two decades, reducing food availability for birds and reducing habitat carrying capacity. 
 The Fund currently encounters additional challenges related to climate change, specifically concerning habitat suitability and availability. To achieve its conservation goals, IFHC is dedicated to continuing research on wild populations and adjusting its strategy to address impending environmental changes. Beyond the direct impact of climate change on bird habitats, human land use and hunting pressures also play significant roles. Therefore, it is crucial to expand the restoration and conservation efforts to new areas withing the species' range, targeting remaining suitable habitats for conservation translocations with the implementation of effective protection measures. Simultaneously, regulating hunting exclusively on captive-bred houbara will ease pressure on wild-born individuals, enhancing their survival and annual productivity. Abdullah Ghurair Al Qubaisi, Director General of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, praised the results of this study, pointing out that the Fund follows a pioneering approach at the global level in proactive intervention to preserve species, and backed by scientific research for breeding in captivity, preserving the genetic origins of different genetic groups, and following world leading standards to reduce risks to bird welfare, reduce stress, and ensure the carrying capacity of habitats, while reducing the threats they face after release such as poaching or unregulated hunting. Al Qubaisi said that climate change, especially in the arid areas inhabited by bustards, reduces the abundance of food and shelter, which limits the maximum carrying capacity of natural habitats. Therefore, the International Fund for Houbara Conservation carefully plans, implements and monitors animal conservation translocation programmes to ensure that the Houbara have the highest chance of successfully adapting and integrating into the wild. 
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