A man has been arrested for trying to smuggle 12 endangered birds across the border after customs officials found them cruelly stuffed inside his car’s spare tyre.
The incident took place in the north-eastern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) when officials found 12 houbara bustards (Chlamydotis undulata) inside the suspect’s spare wheel.
The large bird, also called an African houbara, is classified as ‘vulnerable’ on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Reports said that the live birds were put into plastic bags in pairs before being concealed inside the spare tyre.
A customs spokesperson said that officials grew suspicious when they searched the car boot and noticed a large sack of rice covering the spare wheel.
Customs director general Mohammad Al Mehrazi commended the customs officials for their awareness and professionalism.
The houbara bustard’s numbers had been dwindling for many years due to poaching, but numerous conservation projects have helped increase their population over the last decade.
Under UAE law, smuggling houbara bustards is illegal and the suspect could face a prison sentence of six months as well as a fine of up to 50,000 AED (10,332 GBP).
The UAE’s founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan started a breeding programme in 1982 and over 300,000 houbara bustards have been bred and released into the wild.