By Nadeem Hanif
DUBAI// With a squawk and a chirp, dozens of rare and endangered birds were released into the wild on Sunday morning.
More than 120 birds flew off from Al Khawaneej 2 as part of a Dubai Municipality event on World Bird Migration Day.
Among those released were four falcons, that circled the area before darting off at high speed, and two houbaras, which took a more leisurely stroll out of their box as they became accustomed to their surroundings.
“We wanted to do something to celebrate World Bird Migration Day and raise awareness of the importance of wild life in Dubai,” said Aisha Al Muhairi, head of marine environment and wildlife section, for the Environment Department at Dubai Municipality, said.
“We have released about 120 birds of various species into the wild today but the falcons and houbara are particularly special because they are native to the UAE and are also an important part of out heritage and culture.”
Al Khawaneej 2 was specifically chosen as it best suited the natural habitat for many of the birds, she said.
Houbaras are a popular form of prey for falconry in the UAE and that along with the loss of habitat has lead to their numbers declining in the wild.
“Houbaras are an endangered species but by helping to protect and increase their numbers we can protect them,” she said.
“It is a delicate balancing act because on one hand we want to keep our traditions alive but also protect and preserve species native to the UAE.
“There is biodiversity in the vegetation and environment here which will make it easier for the birds to adapt and settle into the wild.
“We have also had to be very careful how we released the birds because they are prey for falcons out in the wild.”
Hussain Nasser Lootah, director general of the municipality, said the authority was playing a role in the protection of wildlife in the emirate.
“We have wildlife protection projects in and around the city and we want to encourage people to become more involved with protecting the environment,” he said.
“As well as wildlife conservation, we have also been involved in planting trees and protecting sand dunes and the marine habitat for animals.”
Aliya Al Harmoudy, director of the municipality’s environment department, said the authority wanted to raise awareness of the importance of the environment with the public.
“World Migration Bird Day is an international event and we have done a number of things as part of that,” she said.
Last week the municipality organised a seminar one the issue and are now encouraging the public to use social media to send in photos of wild birds.
“Both the falcon and houbara are local birds but they need to be protected in the wild,” she said.
“Many people associate Dubai with the tall buildings but there is a lot of wildlife and hopefully by bringing people’s attention to these kinds of things we can raise awareness of that,” she added.