Egypt and the UAE have agreed to cooperate on protecting a bird that is threatened with extinction in the North African country. The move to protect the houbara bustard follows a cooperation protocol signed in April by the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) and the UAE's International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC).
At the time, Egypt's Environment Minister Yasmin Fouad explained that the agreement, effective for 10 years, will promote research and joint activities to help preserve the species, in addition to exchanging expertise in sustainable wildlife management. She described it as "a milestone in Egyptian-UAE cooperation in the protection of biodiversity… The houbara bustard is present in North African countries, including Egypt."
Earlier this month, as part of the efforts to re-introduce the bird in Egypt, Fouad and UAE Minister of State for Defence Affairs Mohammed Ahmed Al-Bowardi witnessed the release of 2,000 houbara bustards in El-Ameed Natural Reserve in the Marsa Matrouh governorate.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Animals, the houbara bustard is "vulnerable". Its global population is estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000 birds. The current population trend is defined as "decreasing".
The species is particularly sought after by falconers in the Arabian Peninsula, in part due to the belief that its flesh contains aphrodisiacal properties. In spite of its vulnerability, in Pakistan wealthy Arab hunters, including members of ruling families, are allowed to hunt the Asian variant of the species as a form of lucrative, soft diplomacy spanning four decades.