13 August 2007

Abu Dhabi works for falconry preservation

August 11- August 24, 2007
Issue 29

When some political organisations are working to ban falconry and some people would not mind wiping out traditions for the sake of economic development, the Abu Dhabi meanwhile has donated about Dh7.5 million to the Falconry Heritage Trust (FHT), an international body that ensures the protection of falconry across the globe.

“Our country is changing and growing at an incredible rate. In these times, we must work extra hard to keep the links to our past alive. Falconry is a perfect example of a living link to our past, one that we are very proud of, and one that is still practiced by many. By protecting falconry we are ensuring that future generations understand where we and our values have came from,” said the spokesman of Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi.

His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon al Nahyan, Chairman Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) gave the amount to the FHT during the International Falconry Festival held at Englefield, Berkshire, United Kingdom. He was joined in by the Emirates Falconers Club and a VIP delegation from the Abu Dhabi Government and its Environment Agency (EAD).

The money will be invested as an endowment fund to assist the falconers, conservationists and researchers that shares their aim. Information relating to the heritage of falconry as well as about the function of the FHT will be presented in an electronic form on a web-based archive.

Around 30 countries participated in the falconry festival including Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkmenistan, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Libya, Macedonia, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Tunisia, USA and UAE.

Aside from Abu Dhabi’s recent contribution, the UAE has conducted local, regional and international projects for the cause. “Locally we have created many nature reserves and put strict controls on Hunting. In 1993, we opened the National Avian Research Centre, which works on many national and international projects including captive breeding of Houbara bustards, conservation of Houbara in Yemen and Kazakhstan, medical rehabilitation of confiscated birds and monitoring of the Houbara population in UAE.”

“Internationally the UAE is working towards having falconry registered as ‘intangible cultural heritage’ by UNESCO, which, if successful, will have a global benefit for all falconry nations and contribute massively to the protection of falconry across the globe. The International Festival of Falconry was a key part of the UNESCO bid process, and it was also an opportunity to demonstrate the substantial contribution falconers have made to local culture and conservation worldwide.”

Falconry is at risk nowadays ‘due to a lack of understanding of the correct practices of falconry, the occupation of the wilderness on which falcons rely, and the unethical falconers.’ “As a result of this, many organizations are calling for falconry to be banned in some countries. It is the job of the EAD to take a global lead, promote the correct practice of falconry and educate ‘new falconers.’ We are raising awareness of these issues and creating nature reserves to ensure [that] the falcons and other wildlife has a protected environment for breeding.”

Contrary to the news of excessive hunting for falconry, illegal trapping to supply birds for falcon training and hunting pressure in Central Asia – all of which has hastened the drop of the Houbara population to 40% in 2005 and endanger its presence within the next 15 to 25 years – the EAD claims that it is not disregarding the welfare of the Houbara.

“By practicing falconry, we are actually ensuring [that] the Houbara Bustard population is not depleted. Captive breeding of Houbara is undertaken at the National Avian Research Centre (NARC), which is responsible of reconciling the tradition of Arab falconry with sustainable management of the Houbara population. NARC started breeding attempts in 1993 with donated birds. Local re-introduction and re-stocking depleted populations for hunting or for falcon training are among the activities carried out by NARC.”

Those who are seized by poachers from the cities in UAE are given to NARC in order to be quarantined and then released back into the wild. Hunting can be done only in the triangle between Al Ain, Dubai and Abu Dhabi during the winter.

“Preserving falconry and protecting its heritage also ensures biodiversity for the planet by closely monitoring falcon and Houbara population levels. It [also] allows us to work on many international wildlife projects. Most important of all is that falconry helps us to ‘put something back’ by supporting local economies and environments where falconry is practiced, which is often in very poor areas.”

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