UAE: Over 2,000 Falcons 'Return To Nature' In Initiative By Late Sheikh Zayed

(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Wed 19 Jun 2024, 3:02 PM

Last updated: Wed 19 Jun 2024, 11:03 PM

Falcons have been released back into their ideal habitats in the wild under the sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme, established by the late founding father in 1995.

The 2,274 falcons released over the past 30 years include both Saker and Peregrine falcons that have been exposed to environmental pressures.

As the programme completes its 30th edition this year, 63 falcons, including 38 Peregrine falcons and 25 Saker falcons, have been released into migratory areas covering parts of Kazakhstan, Russia, China, Mongolia and neighbouring countries.

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Rugged mountains and vast plains are commonly found in these areas, making it ideal habitats for the falcons, who can feed on abundant prey. The release was conducted under the supervision of the Forestry and Wildlife Committee in the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture.

“Abu Dhabi and the UAE continue to lead nature conservation and protection of wildlife, in particular the internationally acclaimed efforts to conserve falcons, houbara and other wildlife species of ecological, cultural and historical importance. This is in order to increase their opportunities to overcome threats to their survival and prosper in the wild, in our pursuit of sustaining the historical heritage of falconry," said Mohammed Ahmed Al Bowardi, Vice Chairman of Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, and Vice Chairman of International Fund for Houbara Conservation.

He recalled that the late Sheikh Zayed was committed to the tradition of releasing wild falcons after the hunting season. This was due to his belief in the importance of the tradition in preserving the species and protecting them from extinction.

Sheikh Zayed also ensured that the falcons were rehabilitated to adapt to the wild, through "conducting scientific studies and research to identify their biological characteristics, habitats, and migration path," Al Bowardi added.

All falcons of the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme have undergone a comprehensive set of veterinary examinations and intensive training.

In addition to the usual identification rings, all falcons were also implanted with electronic chips.

A representative sample of 10 falcons (five falcons of each type) were equipped with tracking devices connected to satellites with batteries powered by solar energy.

This enables the monitoring of survival rates, dispersal and migration paths, and collection of scientific data used to improve methods of rehabilitation, training, release and the selection of suitable sites for falcons every year.

Al Bowardi highlighted several initiatives that President Sheikh Mohamed has implemented, helping to protect the environment. These include:

  • Reducing the risk of electrocution on 27,000 electricity poles in Mongolia, saving an estimated 18,000 birds of prey annually, of which approximately 4,000 are Saker falcons.
  • Creating five thousand artificial nests in Mongolia, estimated to contribute to the production of 25,000 Saker falcon chicks within 15 years
  • A joint project in Bulgaria, with the Green Balkans organisation, that will help Saker Falcons reproduce in artificial nests that constitute launch pads for the falcons into their natural habitats
  • A cooperative initiative by the Mohamed Bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Fund and the Peregrine Fund in US to assess the effects of climate change on Arctic birds of prey, including the estimation of survival rates and protection priorities for the Peregrine falcon in North America

Al Bowardi expressed his gratitude to the Kazakh authorities for their contribution and efforts in facilitating the joint team's work to implement the programme. The efforts aim to enhance Abu Dhabi's efforts to preserve vulnerable falcon species, and support the principles of environmental sustainability, protection of biodiversity and preservation of wild species.

The Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme has been continued under the patronage of President Sheikh Mohamed and with the follow-up of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD).

EAD supervises the implementation of the programme in partnership with the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) and Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH), with support from the Office of the Special Affairs Adviser Office – Presidential Court, and the Embassy of the UAE in Kazakhstan.


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Khaleej Times

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