posted on 02/05/2012: 676 views
This month, 66 falcons will be flown to Kazakhstan to be released back into the wild by Falcon Hospital Abu Dhabi (FHAD).
They are all wild falcons surrendered to the hospital in the past 12 months and, according to Dr Margit Muller, director of FHAD, they are all fit and ready to be returned to their natural habitat.
"We checked and made sure their health is good and in the past couple of months, they have been training as well,” Dr Muller told Khaleej Times.
The falcons' rehabilitation and freeing is part of the annual Shaikh Zayed Falcon Release programme, established by the late Shaikh Zayed in 1995. Now run by FHAD, under the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi umbrella, the programme is aimed at rehabilitating confiscated falcons and other raptors by releasing them back into the wild.
Since it started 17 years ago, the programme has significantly contributed to curbing the illegal falcon hunting by issuing Falcon Passports, a three-year licence that allows both UAE nationals and residents to move legally acquired falcons frequently across international borders for personal use.
About 1,400 wild falcons have been returned to the wild since the release programme began. Usually, they are freed in springtime in the mountain peaks of Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran or, more recently, Kazakhstan, which are countries on their migration routes.
"Some of the 66 falcons that we are releasing this year have been confiscated on the borders or on the UAE territory and some were injured birds from previous releases. We also had some wild falcons given to us from other countries like Bahrain,” said Dr Muller.
Since certain species of falcons like the Saker, which is most favoured in the Gulf for hunting, are endangered, capturing a wild falcon is illegal in the UAE. Only farm-bred falcons are allowed for falconry. Yet, poachers, especially from Iran and Pakistan, try to bring in wild falcons in the UAE for illegal trade.
"Definitely, the numbers of confiscated wild falcons are going down year after year,” said Dr Muller. It is programmes such as this one that helps, but also increasing awareness and better results in captive breeding. – Khaleej Times
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