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canarian accelerates houbara extinction

The extinction of the Canarian houbara accelerates

The extinction of the Canarian houbara accelerates.

Power and telephone lines, roadkills and feral cats accelerate the extinction of the Canary Islands houbara

Researchers from the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC) show in a study that power and telephone lines, road accidents, wire fences and feral cats are accelerating the demographic decline of the Canary Island houbara, Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae.

The researchers have been analysing the populations of this bird for 8 years, marking specimens with GPS tracking devices, which has allowed them to know in detail the problems faced by this threatened species, endemic to the Canary Islands and an emblem of the fauna of the archipelago.

"Most of the fatal accidents on power lines and telephone lines occur at night, because houbaras are nocturnal migrants. The authorities must take urgent measures if they want to prevent the species from disappearing in a few decades," explains MNCN researcher Juan Carlos Alonso, who directs the Houbara Project.

"Another important factor is the number of people being run over by vehicles, which circulate in very high numbers on the islands' roads and paths. In the houbara breeding areas, it would be necessary to regulate the traffic of tourists, which has increased exponentially in recent decades, as well as to establish speed limits for vehicles. Finally, predation by feral cats is also contributing to many houbara deaths on the islands," Alonso adds.

According to the research, published in the journal Scientific Reports and promoted by the Government of the Canary Islands, as a whole, mortality due to anthropogenic causes affects 6.2% of the Canary Islands houbaras annually, a value that, added to that of natural mortality, reaches 12.5% of individuals. Given that the average annual productivity of chickens is only 7.15%, the current mortality rate is demographically unsustainable.

By eliminating human-caused mortality, the population could recover, although the species would still require management actions to improve habitat quality and promote reproduction. "It is essential to adopt urgent conservation measures such as burying the most dangerous power lines, signalling the remaining ones with effective devices at night, and regulating traffic, including speed limits, to reduce anthropogenic mortality.

Likewise, it is necessary to improve the quality of the habitat and reduce the human impact in the areas where the houbaras breed, to try to increase their reproduction rate," Alonso proposes. The situation of the species is very delicate and has been aggravated in recent years due to the lack of rainfall. In Fuerteventura, the species is on the verge of extinction.

link to article for pic

Tamara: I'll add my own comment here about the decline of the Houbara in the Tindaya area. There are 3 main culprits that I have seen over the 8 years I have lived in Tindaya.
For the first few years I lived here there were 2 houbara that came to feed on the plants along our lane every teatime. They walked up the field, along the lane for about 50m and then back down again. I was privileged to witness the courtship ritual several times although I never saw any young.
Then the problems started:
1. The Cabildo decided to clear the plants (weeds?) along the side of the lane. Why? Who knows? They didn't just cut back a few plants, they brought in a bulldozer and scraped 2m of ground alongside the length of the lane. All plants removed including some beautiful and rare stuff. (orange flowered Spanish bluebells and Dune Crocus were just 2) I saw them starting and rushed out to try to stop them but they were just like 'we have orders to clear the vegetation!' An email to the Cabildo to complain after the event got no response.
2. 2 different German families moved in near me. They both believe that all animals and children should be 'free'. They have numerous cats and large dogs that do as they please. A couple of months ago one families' dogs went to a local finca and killed a young goat - a denuncia later and they have got their dogs inside a fenced garden now. The cats all still roam free. The 2nd family have recently got a young podenco cross that is allowed to roam, it's friendly enough but a right nuisance. I often see it down in the wild fields.
3. General dog walkers. Loads of people arrive with their dogs in cars and let them out to run free for an hour or two across the countryside while they wander off track.
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Thanks Tamara, absolutely relate to your 3 points. I also went up to some 'cleaners', completely ruining spare beautiful vegetation once existed in El Cotillo, The area is near dead now (2 years later) told them these plants need each other to survive, their boss started to yell at me that I'm a foreigner and orders from the Cabildo to clean the public space from all weeds. Without making any distinction, without any common sense and sensitivity or knowledge. Horrifying.

What do they want in Fuerteventura? Clean and neat for the tourists (artificial) or a beautiful island with more wild nature than only rocks. Both seems impossible in the way the Cabildo approaches nature. Not even talking about all people freely crossing everywhere they want with their dogs and machines, without any respect or understanding for the vulnerability of Fuerteventura nature.
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Radio Sintonia:

Planting alfalfa and fruit trees in Fuerteventura to help conserve houbara.

The Ministry of the Environment of the Cabildo de Fuerteventura informs that work is being done on the restoration of habitats for the conservation of the habitats of the houbara with actions such as those developed in the Steppe Bird Reserve of Gavias del Cárcel (municipality of La Oliva), where drinking areas are implemented and with alfalfa and fruit plantations. Likewise, a pioneering project for the protection of fauna is being developed aimed at creating a biodiversity area of approximately 1,000 square meters and a rest for birdlife, thus contributing to the conservation of biodiversity and wildlife in the area. A project that will be transferred to other places on the island that meet similar conditions to promote refuge areas for the protection of fauna.

The Cabildo recalls that houbaras and steppe birds benefit from the different planting campaigns. Likewise, feeders and drinkers are installed throughout the island that help survival throughout the year and the presence of houbaras has been confirmed in these locations.

The Canarian houbara

The Canarian houbara faces multiple dangers such as the destruction of its habitat and disturbances in breeding areas, so intervention is essential for its survival. For this reason, the Minister of the Environment, Carlos Rodríguez, considers it urgent that the Government of the Canary Islands draw up a plan for its conservation.

At the same time, the Cabildo's Ministry of the Environment is developing actions for the control, monitoring and restoration of houbara habitats. Through the censuses that exist of the different species, the Cabildo carries out field monitoring and actions that favor their conservation.

The councillor Carlos Rodríguez, explains that "in the last twelve years, the population of the houbara in Fuerteventura has been decreasing considerably. For this reason, the Cabildo is working to protect it and we will continue to do so to guarantee its survival, with the involvement of a large team of people belonging to the Geslpan company who carry out permanent and meticulous work to study the evolution of the species". In this sense, Gesplan technicians have warned that the reduction is so drastic that the houbara could disappear if urgent action is not taken.

Among the factors affecting the conservation of the species, the lack of rainfall derived from the effects of climate change stands out. In this sense, climate conditions are fundamental for the development of the species. Another factor that affects their survival is the transit of vehicles and people without respecting official trails and roads, as well as predatory species such as feral cats.
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