The Uniqueness of Israel
Israel and UAE Join Forces on Bird Conservation
The recently signed Abraham Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates have been widely hailed as good news. However, it is not just the people of the region that have cause to celebrate, but also the birds.
Both Israel and the UAE are home to the endangered Houbara bustard and conservationists are now coming together to work on how to save it. There are roughly 400 Houbara bustards in Israel and they act as an excellent indicator of the health of the surrounding environment.
If Houbara bustards are present, it means that in the wider ecosystem there is a broad variety of animals, ranging from insects and plants to small mammals and reptiles. However, over the years, they have been widely hunted, and now a global effort is needed if they are to be preserved.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) has worked for two decades trying to save the birds by declaring their natural habitats as nature reserves and banning the hunting of them. The organisation was set to launch a renewed effort to establish a conservation space when the Abraham Accords were signed.
When this happened, INPA put forward a number of areas where the countries could collaborate and the UAE responded enthusiastically to the idea of a joint effort to help the Houbara bustards. Now, a memorandum of understanding has been signed for a five-year research project between INPA and Abu Dhabi’s International Fund for Houbara Conservation.
Houbaras are hunted in the UAE, which is why the numbers there have been steadily falling. However, there is growing awareness that the species may become extinct and something needs to be done to protect them. Furthermore, even the hunters support the conservation efforts, as they wish to continue hunting the rare bird. As a result, the UAE is at the forefront of Houbara conservation efforts around the world, including in Morocco and the Far East.
The International Fund for Houbara Conservation has been working for forty years to create a sustainable future for the birds in the wild through conservation programmes and management plans. As such, it has a huge amount of expertise that Israeli researchers will be able to capitalise on. The programme has had a great deal of success. In 2019, it bred 484,351 Houbara and released more than 343,428 Houbara into the wild.
There are now meetings taking place online about the next steps in the conservation efforts. Israel is looking for ways to look after the native Houbara population and help them flourish while the UAE is interested in preventing extinction and increasing the birds’ numbers as much as possible. The UAE is also interested in the Israeli population, as it is genetically unique.
There is hope that in the future the countries will turn their focus to other species. However, they have agreed to start with the Houbara as by protecting them, it also creates protection for a number of other species on the ground. Hopefully, with the combined efforts of Israel and the UAE, it won’t be very long before the Houbara bustard is flourishing across the region.