Sixty-five falcons were released into the wild in the Republic of Kazakhstan this year as part of the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme, SZFRP. A total of 1,920 of the culturally emblematic birds have been released since the programme started in 1995.
The programme, which is held under the patronage of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is now in its 24th successive year, and indications showed that the numbers of falcons in the wild are growing as part of Abu Dhabi's efforts to preserve distinctive species of falcons, support the principles of environmental sustainability, protect biodiversity, preserve important species of human heritage, and increase its ability to address the risks of expanding human activities, climate change and other natural and human factors.
The programme, which also operates under the support of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EAD, is supervised by EAD in partnership with the International Fund for the Conservation of Houbara and Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital.
The falcons (57 Peregrine and 8 Saker) were released in collaboration with the Committee on Forestry and Wildlife of the Ministry of Agriculture of Kazakhstan in Karaganda, an important region for the breeding and transit of migratory falcons.
Kazakhstan is an ideal location to release falcons due to its mountains and plains situated within the falcons’ migration range (that spreads through Russia, China, Mongolia and neighboring countries) and because it is host to the prey essential for falcons to breed and thrive. Satellite tracking data revealed that many of the falcons released by the programme have used the Karaganda region in previous years.
Prior to being released, all falcons were subjected to a full range of medical examinations and intensive training and received their final examination on the morning of the release. All of the falcons were identified and implanted with a microchip, and some received an additional satellite-related tracking device whose solar batteries are used to monitor survival and propagation rates and traditional migration routes and in the collection of scientific data used to develop methods of preparation, training, release and selection of suitable sites for falcons year after year.
EAD encourages all falconers and wildlife enthusiasts to participate in this programme by donating their wild falcons, both Peregrine and Saker, to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital at the end of the hunting season, or at any time of the year, to be examined, rehabilitated, and released according to the scientific regulations and protocols and to promote wildlife and support efforts to preserve falcons in their natural habitat.