Try falcon hunting the traditional way

Try falcon hunting the traditional way
Hunters can choose to take their prey with them or have them cooked at the campsite.Photos by Ryan Lim

Abu Dhabi - Sustainable hunting ground in Abu Dhabi open during winter.



By Silvia Radan

Published: Thu 25 Feb 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sat 27 Feb 2016, 11:01 AM

In the olden days, before cars and guns entered the mighty dunes of Abu Dhabi, Emirati men used to spend their winter days in the desert with their camels and falcons, practicing what they loved most - falconry!
Unlike other parts of the world, falconry was not just a sport, but a way of life, a means for food on the table and to sort out issues with fellow tribe members or Shaikhs over the long camping nights under the stars.
This winter season, falcon hunting, in the old, traditional style, is made possible again. The Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee - Abu Dhabi (CPHFC) announced the opening of a sustainable hunting ground in Abu Dhabi's Western Region.
"It is the first of its kind in the whole world," stressed Obaid Khal-fan Al Mazrouei, director of heritage competitions at CPHFC.
According to him, the fenced off hunting grounds is opened annually to anyone - Emirati, expat or visitor, amateur or experienced - wishing to try their hand at falcon hunting, from mid November until February.
"The hunting grounds are inside Al Marzoum, a 933 square kilometres nature reserve, protected by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD)," said Dr. Shaikha Al Dhaheri, executive-director of terrestrial and marine biodiversity at EAD.
The hunting area occupies 200 square kilometres of the reserve, which has been populated with houbara bustards from the National Avian Research Centre (NARC).
"Hunting wild houbara is still illegal, but these are farmbred houbara and the hunting will be limited to sustainable numbers," Dr. Al Dhaheri told Khaleej Times.
Exactly one year ago, NARC released 80 houbara birds in Al Marzoum hunting grounds, which was used for the International Falconry Festival. Some of this houbara still roam freely here, and more will be released depending on how many hunters will use the camp. An ancient Emirati tradition that is now part of the nation's heritage, falconry still plays a major role in the Emirati identity.
For years now, falconers have been lobbying for hunting areas close to home and for the first time in decades, they got to hunting grounds in the emirate: one is the falconry school in the desert of Remah, in the Eastern Region of the emirate, which opened for both children and adults last November, and the second is Al Marzoum.The hobby does not come cheap, though.
"Access to Al Marzoum hunting grounds is Dh5,000 per person. This includes transport, accommodation, food, hunting guide and one houbara prey," said Al Mazrouei.Being a protected species, hunters are allowed to catch only two houbara per hunting trip.
The first is included in the Dh5,000 pack-age fee, but if they wish to catch a second one, they must pay an extra Dh2,750.
Apart from houbara, falconers may also hunt for rabbits and kharawan, a smaller type of bird."The package fee also includes a guide, who is a professional hunter, whose role is to help falconers catch a houbara by giving them tips and advice, but also to make sure there is no over hunting abuse and everyone keeps with the maximum two houbara allowance," explained Ahmed bin Hiaai Al Mansouri, director of Al Marzoum hunting grounds.
Hunting trips will be run twice daily, in the morning and after-noon. Hunters can choose to take their prey with them or have them cooked in the campsite.
The 200 square kilometres area is split into camps for families only and for individuals. The car park at the entrance of the camp is where hunters must leave their vehicles, as transport inside the camp is done only by foot and by camel.While saluki hunting, another traditional Emirati form of hunting, may be introduced in future, one thing Al Mansouri said it will never be allowed is guns."This will always remain a traditional, sustainable hunting area and no bullet will ever be fired here," he stressed.
silvia@khaleejtimes.com

Falconers follow a hunting falcon on camel back at Al Marzoum Hunting Reserve in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region where the bird is hunted in the old, traditional style. The use of guns are prohibited in the protected area.
Falconers follow a hunting falcon on camel back at Al Marzoum Hunting Reserve in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region where the bird is hunted in the old, traditional style. The use of guns are prohibited in the protected area.
Al Marzoum Hunting Reserve is a 933sqkm nature reserve protected by the EAD.
Al Marzoum Hunting Reserve is a 933sqkm nature reserve protected by the EAD.

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