Saker falcons get new lease of life

Abu Dhabi: The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) said on Tuesday it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism, Mongolia, for the conservation of wild Saker falcons.

The five-year agreement aims to increase the breeding capabilities of the wild Saker falcons (Falco cherrug) by monitoring artificial nests placed throughout Mongolia for the birds, and by conducting comprehensive research and monitoring of the species.

The memorandum was signed by Mohammad Ahmad Al Bowardi, Secretary-General of the Executive Council and Managing Director of EAD and Minister Luimed Gansukh, Head of the Mongolian Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism, in the presence of EAD's Secretary-General Majid Al Mansouri.

The main aim of the agreement is to advance an ongoing project to increase the numbers of wild Saker falcons and help develop a regulatory system to govern the harvest and trade in wild Saker falcons in line with existing Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) regulations.

Locally known as Hurr, meaning free, this species is the second largest falcon in the world. The Saker falcon is an important symbol of an Emirati heritage, and has sadly undergone a rapid global population decline.

There are currently an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 breeding pairs in the world.

Al Mansouri said: "In line with our commitment to promote sustainable falconry and falcon conservation, the agreement's objectives have been defined to allow us to learn more as well increase the population of Saker falcons in central Mongolia."

"By studying this species' habits and by creating nest sites where none existed previously, we are optimistic that the new population will support a sustainable harvest of Saker falcons for Arabic falconry and contribute to increasing the Saker population in Mongolia. We hope that this programme becomes a global example of how two government entities can work together for a joint cause."

The second objective of the agreement is to conduct research on the biology of the Saker falcon, to survey its population number and distribution, and to set up a long-term monitoring programme of the population in order to conserve this species for the future.

Finally, the agreement would also allow research and monitoring programmes on other raptor species, particularly those that are important to Arab falconry in line with the Convention on Migratory Species.

This memorandum is to expand a previous five-year agreement between the two parties which saw the EAD provide funding for biologists to conduct research on experimental artificial nests placed in 2006.

Fast facts: Endangered

- The Saker falcon is classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List and is listed in Appendix 2 of Cites.

- The Mongolian population is currently estimated at 2,000- 5,000 breeding pairs.


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