A female saker falcon with a solar powered satellite transmitter.
Head falconers Saif al Khaili, left, and Khamis Al Hamadi, prepare to release the falcons. It has been 21 years since the founding President Sheikh Zayed, an avid falconer, set up a conservation effort to protect the endangered birds of prey. Since then 1,726 falcons have been released back into their natural habitat, first in Pakistan, then in Iran, and back in Pakistan until the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme moved to Kazakhstan seven years ago.
Dr Margit Muller, director of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, releases a peregrin falcon. “The programme was launched to enable falcons to be released back into the wild and not to keep them here in the summer time as that time there were not proper ways to keep them cool. They would not have survived,” she says. “So Sheikh Zayed’s idea was to take them back to a migration route and release them and slowly multiply the population.”
Khamis al Hamadi, the head training falconer at the private office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, releases a falcon.
Sultan al Ameemi, the External Affairs Director at the private office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, prepares to release a female saker falcon.
Sultan al Ameemi and Saif al Khaili, the head falconer at the office, prepare to release a saker and a peregrin falcons.
Birds, marked by their unique falcon-release rings, sit on their perch while awaiting their turn to be released back into the wild.
Releasing a bird of prey into the wild is no small feat. “People think you just throw the falcons into the air and that is that,” says Dr Margit Muller, director of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, which helps oversee the programme. “In reality it is a much bigger job than that.”
Bird mitt (mangala), fitted with astro turf for better bird foot care, is prepared for the next bird to be freed.
A female falcon feeds on a freshly-killed pigeon, shortly after she has been released into the wild.
Falconers from the private office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan and staff from the International Fund for Houbara Conservation and the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital survey the landscape as they prepare to release falcons back into the wild north of the coastal city of Aktau in southwest Kazakhstan.
Saif al Hamadi, left, a falconer at the private office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, releases a first-year female peregrin falcon, fitted with a satellite transmitter.
Dr Margit Muller, director of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, checks out a a bird-release ring on a falcon to ensure that she is fit to be freed.