Houbara Breeding Centre

CVRL’s Houbara Breeding Centre undertakes research to help save this rare bird from extinction. Other breeding programs for the Houbara are focussed on conventional techniques. However, our team is creating success stories through the use of new approaches.

In October 2002, the construction of H.H.Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Houbara Breeding Centre (HBC) was completed. A loan of breeding age Houbara bustards from the International Foundation for the Conservation and Development of Wildlife (Morocco) were used to assess the breeding potential in the UAE.

Breeding Houbara in captivity is challenging due to the high temperature and humidity in the UAE environment. Special techniques in sperm collection, artificial insemination, incubation of eggs and hand-rearing of chicks are required for success. Most of the birds are only able to breed once they reach maturity at three years or more, and therefore we set several parameters in place to maximise potential breeding:

  • collect sperm from individual males no more than every four days to ensure maximum sperm quality and quantity.
  • Inseminate an absolute minimum of 10 x 10 6 spermatozoa per female perinsemination.
  • Inseminate the females before the onset of laying to increase the probability of a fertile first clutch.
  • Inseminate each female every seven days to ensure she is well stocked with semen
  • High control for artificial incubation conditions: incubators, incubation room temperature and humidity,
  • Bio security: control or prevent the entry of biological agents such as bacteria and viruses.
  • Disease control: a CVRL programme ofvaccination is set annually.

Our team is very busy as we continue to develop and improve the protocol for captive breeding of Houbara’s in Dubai. In addition, we supply the Cell Biology Department with fertile eggs and semen samples for the Houbara chicken chimera project.

The numbers speak of our success. In 2010, 400 eggs were laid from 30 layers of females, 85 chicks were hatched and 275 fertile eggs and 70 semen samples were given to the Cell Biology project. One of the most important developments was the reduction in breeding age from 3+ to less than 2 years old. This allows for greater breeding potential in the future.

With the increased successes and enlargement of the Houbara Breeding Centre, five environmental houses have been built to fulfil the requirements for captive breeding, and to ensure the general welfare of the birds is maintained when they are not breeding especially during the summer season.

Presently the centre has bred several hundred houbara chicks, including pure houbaras and other avian species from chicken chimers.

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