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"No other country spends this amount of money for the benefit of the wild falcon," said Mohamed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Director General of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage.
The Emirates Falconers' Club is, in fact, running various projects aimed at the protection of the wild falcon.
"Since 2002 we started building the data for all falconry in UAE and at the same time, we started a few educational and awareness programmes in order to protect the wild birds and encourage people to hunt with the captive falcons," explained Al Mazrouei.
In this respect, there are now two falcon breeding farms in the Emirates, as well as in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
According to Al Mazrouei, hunting with captive birds has gained ground through the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex), which is held annually in the capital.
"During the exhibitions, breeders not only come from Gulf countries, but from all over the world meet and discuss business and breeding issues," said Al Mazrouei.
To encourage falconers to use hybrid birds in order to preserve the wild ones, a competition for the finest and largest hybrid falcon was held for the first time during the Adihex 2004, which was the first of its kind in the world.
Apart from Adihex, the UAE government also puts a lot of effort into the means of protecting the wild falcons through the Shaikh Zayed Wild Falcon Release Programme.
"This started back in 1995 and it was initiated by the late UAE president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan," Al Mazrouei told Khaleej Times.
The programme was conducted in the hope that the captured wild birds, once freed from captivity, will rejoin the wild falcon population and contribute to its growth and conservation.
The falcons of late Shaikh Zayed himself were released through this project, as well as those of the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the falcons of other shaikhs and UAE nationals.
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also contributed to the programme by donating wild falcons to be released.
The Emirates Falconers' Club, who is running this programme, is also freeing falcons caught illegally on UAE territory.
"All the falcons we catch on the border and those that come illegally in the Emirates we confiscate them, then we rehabilitate them in the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital and release them back into the wild," revealed Mohamed Al Mazrouei.
Usually, the birds are set free around February, in different locations. So far, the falcons were taken to Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Iran. Last year there were 41 saker falcons and 54 peregrine were released in Pakistan.
Since 1995, when the programme started, 949 falcons were released back into their own habitat.
Al Mazrouei claims that 99 per cent of UAE falcons are now hybrid birds, but the problem remains with the "black market" falconry.
"Most problems come from Pakistan and Iran — these people can't control the situation," explained Al Mazrouei, adding: "The falcon season starts in October and that is when most wild birds are caught and sold illegally. We try to cut off the market for these traders by organising our falconry exhibition in September, since during this event people buy and sell their birds."
The UAE falconry is also about to receive new hunting regulations.In the meantime, most UAE nationals hunt outside the country, mainly around GCC countries, Pakistan, Iran and Morocco. According to Al Mazrouei, Emirates Falconers' Club also plans to register falconry on the Unesco World Heritage List.
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