Falconry conference begins in Abu Dhabi
NYU Abu Dhabi hosts three-day session.
It's been over a decade since the UAE began a conservation programme for endangered wild falcons, encouraging falconers to use captive bred falcons instead.
To date, over 3,500 falcons were born in breeding farms in UAE and they are considered just as agile as the wild birds.
Their journey from wild, lone hunters to complex relationships with human beings, particularly over the Arab sky and land, is being discussed in a three-day conference - Falconry in the Mediterranean Context - at the New York University Abu Dhabi, which began on Sunday.
According to Majed Ali Al Mansouri, vice president of the International Association of Falconry - Mena region and executive director of Emirates Falconers Club, the UAE began protecting wild falcons as early as 1995, when Shaikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme, run by the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH) was established.
"The programme succeeded, over the past 20 years, to release nearly 1,700 saker and peregrine falcons into their natural habitats in Central Asia," pointed out Al Mansouri.
"ADFC, which is the largest of its kind in the world, has provided treatment to more than 75,000 falcons since it opened in 1991," he added.
One of the biggest achievements for falconry, though, came in 2010, when Unesco finally declared it as a living human heritage and inscribed it on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
"It took years of research for it to happen and it did thanks to the efforts of 11 Arab and foreign countries led by the UAE. Many countries still adhere to this file and falconry received the most important global recognition," said Al Mansouri.
Although the conference is largely being attended by falconry experts, NYU students also have a keen interest in it.
Among them is Samuel Ridgeway, who is writing his graduation thesis on falconry.
"I'm actually doing two projects on falconry; the first is a documentary film on UAE falconry, exploring the art of falconry, not just the sport. The second is a biology research," he explained.
Ridgeway's research project not only looks in detail at different types of falcon's breeding and health issues, but it is also ambitious enough to try to establish a DNA bar coding chip.
"This would be like an ID for the falcon, telling the falconer if his bird is pure bred or hybrid," he pointed out.
An NYU student who came from UK, Ridgeway's interest in falcons only started as a result of his studying in Abu Dhabi.
"I'm not a falconer, but I'm hoping to go on some falconry sessions. It would be a privilege to stay close to the birds," he told Khaleej Times.
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