x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAE conservation group releases 93 more falcons into the wild

This brings the number of falcons reintroduced into the wild by the Abu Dhabi initiative to 1,554.

The Sheikh Zayed programme releases 93 falcons in the wild of Kazakhstan.
The Sheikh Zayed programme releases 93 falcons in the wild of Kazakhstan.

ABU DHABI // An Abu Dhabi conservation programme has released 93 falcons into the wild.

The 46 peregrine and 47 saker falcons were set free in Kurchum in eastern Kazakhstan by the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme.

The release in May brings the number reintroduced into the wild by the programme to 1,554.

Kazakhstan’s wilderness was chosen as it is along the birds’ migratory routes and has an abundance of prey such as other birds, small mammals and rodents.

It was the fifth consecutive year the programme has used the area. Five falcons of each species were fitted with solar battery powered satellite transmitters, used to track their migration and breeding patterns. Scientists hope to use the information to ensure higher survival rates in the future.

The programme was established in 1995 to protect falcons and their prey, such as the endangered Asian Houbara.

Peregrine and saker falcons, donated by falconers, are examined for disease at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. The birds are then treated before being sent to a training camp for the next eight weeks. The strongest birds are released. Some falcons will fly up to 270 kilometres within their first week in the wild.

Mohammed Al Bowardi, the managing director at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, said falconers spoke on Kazakh television and delivered lectures at schools and universities in the country to spread the message about the programme.

“By getting local people to help the local government, we have a better chance of protecting these falcons,” he said.

The conservation effort aims to preserve the birds and the sport of falconry, a centuries-old Bedouin hunting method.

“From falconry we can learn many important values and skills,” Mr Al Bowardi added. “We learn to be at one with nature and the need to conserve the world around us. It also teaches us vital life skills such as respect, patience and working together, which make us better individuals and improves our community.

“In essence falconry is at the heart of the unique identity which makes our nation what it is today.

“Abu Dhabi’s work to preserve this cultural icon is both unified and international and reflects our commitment to making a real difference to both global conservation and for the preservation of our culture.”

halbustani@thenational.ae