Currently, both the African and Asian houbara bustard species are classified as ‘Vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This means that the species faces threats but concerted efforts can help it recover. The two species are also included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. In addition, countries that have signed the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) are bound by the treaty to undertake actions to ensure a good habitat for the birds.

 

The major threats to the houbara are:

UNREGULATED HUNTING

The advent of modern four-wheel vehicles, firearms, modern hunting equipment and the use of greater numbers of falcons, has led to a deterioration of traditional hunting ethics. Such unregulated hunting has resulted in declines of wild populations of houbara bustards.

NATURAL PREDATION

Houbara bustard chicks are vulnerable to predation, being preyed on by eagles, falcons, foxes, jackals, feral dogs and monitor lizards.

HABITAT LOSS AND DEGRADATION

In all countries of the houbara bustards’ range, economic development poses a significant threat to wild populations. Livestock grazing is reported to have a negative impact on the species by degrading the vegetation on which it relies for food and concealment, as well as resulting in the trampling of nests and disturbance of nesting females.

CLIMATE CHANGE

The increase in temperatures, shorter winters, and changing precipitation patterns alter the vegetation distribution of semi-arid and arid shrubs and bushes. Such a change will certainly affect the houbara in its range, especially in terms of its migration patterns, distribution and food availability.

DISEASES

Houbara bustards are strong birds that can withstand viruses and bacteria, but are nonetheless vulnerable to diseases, such as avian influenza (or bird flu).

POACHING

Large numbers of houbara bustards are trapped in their wintering habitat and illegally traded in the Middle East to be sold to falconers training their falcons for hunting. While hunting is often cited as a major threat, illegal trade is probably just as alarming.