x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Falcon's nests programme may boost Mongolian schools

Mongolian children in areas where the nests are built have been forging links with overseas schools, sharing stories about falconry and their culture.

DUBAI //An Abu Dhabi-funded programme to build artificial nests for falcons could provide benefits for impoverished schools in Mongolia.

Mongolian children in areas where the nests are built have been forging links with overseas schools, sharing stories about falconry and their culture.

In return, children overseas have been raising funds to help modernise schools in Mongolia.

The project to link schools in different countries is the latest development to come from the artificial nests programme, which was started in 2009 with funding from the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, and aims to help increase the numbers of saker falcons in the wild.

Mongolia is the only country with a Cites-sanctioned trade in falcons, and the programme was designed to ensure the trade was sustainable.

Nicola Dixon, manager of the artificial nests programme at the UK-based International Wildlife Consultants, said the school links programme was about ensuring some of the benefits of the trade trickled down to the local community.

"At the moment, communities aren't benefiting at all from the trade in falcons," she said. "For them to benefit, we need to link schools up through the programme."

She said that a pilot study this year with a school in Bayan, Mongolia and one in Cardiff, Wales, had already paid dividends.

Through coffee mornings and collections in their lunch hour, children at Glyncoed Junior School had already raised Dh6,000 of the Dh16,000 they needed to provide internet access at a school in Bayan, in Mongolia's central Tov province.

The schools are already communicating with each other, sharing ideas about falcon conservation and learning about falconry in both Mongolia and the UAE.

Six more schools in the UK and the US - though none yet in the UAE - are signed up to link with six schools in Mongolia next year.

The eventual goal is to have schools in each of the 20 areas in Mongolia where artificial nests are installed participating in the programme.

Ms Dixon said the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi were discussing whether schools in the capital could participate in the programme, although no final decision had been made.

"It is important for children in the Emirates to learn about falconry and falcon conservation, as this is an important part of their heritage," she said. "It would be great to eventually have schools from Abu Dhabi linked with schools in Mongolia."

mcroucher@thenational.ae