In the late 1970s the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, noted the decline of Houbara numbers in the wild and set out to reverse the trend based on his belief that we should ‘Leave the land as good, if not better, than we found it’.


A committed conservationist, Sheikh Zayed initiated the Abu Dhabi Houbara programme to redress the balance of wild Houbara populations with a wider vision to sustain wildlife through the preservation of heritage and underpinned by principles that promote sustainability and maintain ecological balance.

Over the past 40 years, we have used technological advancements and pioneered ground-breaking scientific techniques to increase understanding of this shy yet remarkable bird and build a unique conservation programme.


From humble beginnings at Al Ain Zoo in 1977, when work began to develop a greater understanding of the habitat and behaviour of the species based on a few donated Houbara, the programme broke new ground when the first captive-bred Houbara chick hatched in 1982.


Building on this success, the National Avian Research Centre (NARC) was established in 1989 to provide a platform for the pioneering work of species conservation scientists and increase the number of Houbara chicks that could be bred in captivity. In 1994 the first satellite tracking device was fitted to a Houbara to learn more about the bird’s movements and in 1995 the Emirates Centre for Wildlife Propagation (ECWP) opened in Morocco to breed Houbara for release in North Africa.


At this point the Houbara was regarded as a single species (it was only in 2014 that the Houbara was officially divided into two distinct species – Asian and North-African Houbara).


In 2006 IFHC was established to manage the full scope of the programme’s operations. In the same year a second facility was subsequently opened at Enjil in Morocco to breed Houbara for release in North Africa. In the UAE, a second facility – the Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Breeding

Centre – Abu Dhabi (SKHBC-AD) began full production in 2012, whilst in Kazakhstan temporary facilities for breeding were established in 2008 with the construction of a permanent facility began in 2011.


As production numbers grew, the release programme expanded. The first Houbara was released in North Africa in 1998, while the first release of Asian Houbara was in the UAE in 2004. Now, IFHC releases tens of thousands of Houbara annually in countries throughout the species’ range. Reflecting the holistic approach to conservation by IFHC, in 2013 we began providing captive-bred Houbara to falconers in the UAE to train their falcons, an initiative

that helps sustain heritage.


In 2016 we achieved the goal to breed 50,000 Houbara annually and our objective now is to take the Houbara conservation project even further. Our strategy remains true to Sheikh Zayed’s vision and our commitment reflect his passion to restore sustainable wild populations of this remarkable bird.


Important Milestones in the Conservation of Asian Houbara:

1977 Houbara Conservation programme initiated at Al Ain Zoo.

1982 First captive-bred Houbara chick hatched.

1989 Establishment of the National Avian Research Centre.

1993 Works begins at the centre.

1994 Installation of the first satellite tracking device on wild Houbara.

1995 Studies launched on Houbara in Central Asia.

1998 Launch of a long-term programme for tracking Houbara.

2000 Production increases in the breeding programme.

2002 Initiation of successful protocols for breeding operations.

2004 Release of the first five captive-bred Asian Houbara into the wild.

2005 NARC designs techniques to control environmental conditions in order to increase production outside the breeding season.

2007 Three captive-bred Houbara birds observed nesting in the desert in the UAE, proving the possibility of Houbara breeding in the local environment.

2008 Production at NARC reaches 980 captive-bred Houbara, while 12 nests captive-bred Houbara are identified nests in Abu Dhabi.

2010 Construction work starts at Sheikh Khalifa Centre Houbara Breeding Centre- Abu Dhabi ​​in Saih al-Salam.

2012 The opening of Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Breeding Centre, the second facility in Abu Dhabi.

2013 Inclusion of the importance of conserving the Houbara in the curriculum in light of an agreement with the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

2015 For the first time in Pakistan birds produced in UAE from genetic assets identical to wild Houbara in Pakistan were released.


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