Experimental releases of captive-bred houbara Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii bustards were conducted at Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area in western Saudi Arabia from 1992 to 1994. Three release techniques were tested: release of broods, release of feather-cut subadults and release of flying subadults. Releases were made in a 400 ha enclosure free of mammalian predators from where houbara were free to fly into the reserve. Approximately two-thirds of feather-cut subadults were killed by avian predators inside the enclosure, before they were able to fly. Chicks in broods also were susceptible to avian predation inside the release enclosure and mammalian carnivores outside the enclosure. However, 36% of chicks released were introduced successfully. Greatest success (48%) was achieved with flying subadult release. Experimental removal (translocation) of red foxes Vulpes vulpes and feral cats Felis domesticus from the vicinity of the release enclosure affected the temporal and spatial distribution of mammalian predation but not the overall rate. At the end of 1994, 35 introduced houbara were free-ranging in the reserve, some having been so for as long as 27 months, and they appeared to no longer be seriously threatened by predation.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 1998
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