Etihad Cargo and IFHC Transport Vulnerable and Endangered Birds to Their Natural Habitats

Press release
Published April 18th, 2018 - 08:03 GMT
Abu Dhabi partnership sees thousands of Houbara bustards transported in last three years.
Abu Dhabi partnership sees thousands of Houbara bustards transported in last three years.

Etihad Cargo and the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), one of the world’s leading conservation programmes, have recently transported a shipment of more than 100 vulnerable Houbara bustards for release into their natural habitats. In the past three years, the partnership between the two organisations has led to the successful relocation and integration into the wild of more than 3,000 Houbara across the world.

The venture, which is part of the Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Reintroduction Programme, began in 2014, when the two organisations signed a partnership agreement. In 2017 alone, more than 2,000 birds were transported safely to countries in Asia and North Africa, which have more hospitable environments, thereby increasing the birds’ long-term survival.

The Houbara are bred in centres in Abu Dhabi managed by IFHC and then released into their natural habitat in countries across the world. IFHC has developed protocols based on ground breaking ecology on the breeding and release of the Houbara, and every release site is studied to ensure the birds have the optimal chance of survival.

Justin Carr, Vice President of Etihad Cargo, said, “Our motto is ‘From Abu Dhabi to the world’ and it is literally the case with our partnership with IFHC. It is an honour to be able to safely transport the Houbara to countries where they can thrive, and play a small part in Abu Dhabi’s project of restoring this iconic species in the wild. Etihad Cargo has a strong record of safely transporting animals around the world – be it returning vulnerable or endangered species to their natural habitat or reuniting pets with their families.”

Commenting on the partnership, Mohammed Saleh Al Baidani, Director-General of IFHC, said: “The range of the Houbara stretches from Morocco to Mongolia, so it is critical that we are able to move the birds from Abu Dhabi to countries across the species’ range safely and securely. Etihad Cargo has proved itself in terms of destinations and security, and together we are helping restore the iconic Houbara to countries where it has been in historic decline. It is another example of how Abu Dhabi is leading the way, both in conservation and commerce.”

Abu Dhabi’s Houbara programme was initiated over 40 years ago by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the UAE, to restore sustainable wild populations of the species to the areas of the world where they were under threat of extinction. In that time, it has developed into the world’s leading Houbara conservation programme. Etihad Cargo receives the Houbara at the Live Animals facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport. The climate in the aircraft hold is adjusted to the ideal level to ensure the birds’ comfort during the flight.  As is standard when transporting live animals, the Houbara are the last to be loaded onto the aircraft and the first to be offloaded.

In 2016, Etihad Airways signed the Buckingham Palace Declaration, as a demonstration of support for the prevention of trade in illegal wildlife. The UAE is signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the airline provides the necessary support to help ensure that wildlife controlled under CITES is not carried unless the necessary paperwork is in order. While the transport of Houbara is usually prohibited under CITES, permission is granted on this occasion in support of an official conservation programme.

Background Information

Etihad Airways

As an airline, Etihad has come a long way in a short time – just like its home Abu Dhabi. 

The airline was established by Royal (Emiri) Decree in July 2003 and is wholly owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi with a mandate to operate safely, commercially and profitably.

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Vic Roth

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