Captive Breeding

The Breeding Programme

Scientific study has been the basis upon which Abu Dhabi’s captive breeding programme was founded and developed. Only by studying the birds’ physiological and behavioral characteristics, both in the wild and in captivity, can the suitable artificial conditions to produce the bird in large numbers be recreated. Initial studies led to a break-through in 1996 when the first captive-bred Houbara chicks were hatched.

From the outset, securing the genetic purity of the Houbara was a major objective. Maintaining genetic purity provides the best chance of survival as captive-bred birds retain the genes of wild Houbara. While reproducing birds on a production line is a relatively simple task; ensuring that each bird contains the right genetic code is neither simple nor inexpensive. Therefore, Abu Dhabi has invested immense economic, as well as intellectual, capital in ensuring the genetic line of the Houbara is secure in the captive breeding flock.

Breeding the Houbara in captivity is a long and complicated process which is carried out in several stages. It begins with taking samples of the birds in the flocks at the Fund's centres. The healthiest males, genetically and physically, are selected to ensure the maintenance of the genes, following which the samples are used to artificially inseminate the female birds. Once the eggs are laid they are collected and moved to incubators for three weeks.

IFHC has developed separate protocols depending on whether the birds will be released into the wild or be retained to reinforce the breeding stock. For those birds which will be released into the wild the less human contact after hatching the better, so that they do not become tame – in the wild the birds are shy and keep away from humans. Therefore, after hatching the young birds are fed by specialists in the centres for another three weeks before they are moved to release cages where they gradually learn how to rely on themselves and acquire the strength and skill to adapt to the harsh environments they will face after they are released in the wild. This greatly increases their chance of survival once they are released into their natural environment. Over forty years, IFHC has succeeded in developing advanced breeding techniques and is now the reference point for the methodology for the captive breeding of Houbara.

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