UAE

UAE releases 63 falcons into the wilds of Kazakhstan

Falcon
Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme continues to release falcons in wilds in a bid to preserve the species.
Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: After the success of the 30th anniversary of the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme (SZFRP) in May, the number of falcons that have been returned to nature has reached 2,274.

The figure comprises both Saker and Peregrine falcons that have been exposed to environmental pressures over the past 30 years.

The programme was established by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1995, and it has been continued under the patronage of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, 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.

In its 30th edition this year, the programme successfully released 63 falcons, comprising 38 Peregrine falcons and 25 Saker falcons under the supervision of the Forestry and Wildlife Committee in the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture, according to the Abu Dhabi Media office.

Migratory areas

The release took place within the migratory area of these falcons, covering parts of Kazakhstan, Russia, China, Mongolia and neighbouring countries. The nature of these areas is characterised by rugged mountains and vast plains that contain ideal habitats abundant with prey on which falcons can feed.

Mohammed Ahmed Al Bowardi, Vice Chairman of EAD and Vice Chairman of IFHC, said: “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.”

Preserving the species

He recalled the establishment of the programme 30 years ago, noting that despite the ease of sustaining falcons throughout the year, UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, 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.

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Scientific studies

Al Bowardi said: “The late Sheikh Zayed was not satisfied with merely reviving this sustainable tradition, so he initiated an institutional programme for releasing falcons 30 years ago — not only returning wild falcons to their remote habitats in Kazakhstan, China, Russia and other migration and breeding areas, but also rehabilitating them to adapt to the wilderness. In addition to conducting scientific studies and research to identify their biological characteristics, habitats, and migration paths.

“In addition to the continuation of Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme, the initiatives of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, continue to protect wildlife and help preserve the natural balance of the planet.

“Examples of such initiatives include reducing the effects of electrocution on falcons and other birds of prey in Mongolia, reducing the risk of electrocution on 27,000 electricity poles, which helped save an estimated 18,000 birds of prey annually, of which approximately 4,000 are Saker falcons. Five thousand artificial nests were also created in Mongolia, estimated to contribute to the production of 25,000 Saker falcon chicks within 15 years, which will boost their numbers in the wild. A joint project is also being implemented in Bulgaria with the Green Balkans organisation to help Saker Falcons reproduce in artificial nests that constitute launch pads for the falcons into their natural habitats, with the aim of restoring their deteriorating population in the southern Balkans.

“In the same context, the Mohamed Bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Fund is cooperating with the Peregrine Fund in the United States 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. We also continue to work with other partners around the world to develop new projects to achieve comprehensive strategic outcomes and develop local capabilities in raptor research and conservation methods.”

Partnerships

He recommended the successful partnership that helped in the success of the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme and 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.

Veterinary examinations

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 implanted with electronic chips, and 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. The measures enable 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.

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