The breeding of falcons in captivity had a big impact on the sport of falconry. Image Credit: Supplied/Gulf News Archives

ABU DHABI: The 18th edition of the International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (ADIHEX) will be organised by the Emirates Falconers’ Club from September 27 to October 3 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

The breeding of falcons in captivity had a big impact on the sport of falconry and played a major role in the sustainability and revival of this authentic heritage, with the use of captive-bred falcons growing exponentially in countries of the Arab Gulf. The event is being held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Emirates Falconers’ Club.


In 1995, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan worked to replace the use of wild falcons with captive-bred. Years later, the UAE became the first country in the Middle East to only use captive-bred falcons in the sport of falconry.

In the same year, the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme was announced with the aim of preserving population of wild falcons by providing them with sufficient opportunities to breed in their natural habitats, which resulted in a remarkable increase in the number of falcons breeding facilities in the world and the expansion and development of the industry.

Emirati and international experts attribute the success of efforts to use captive-bred falcons in the sport of falconry, the remarkable increase in the number of falcon farms in the world and the expansion and development of their industry, to Emirati efforts primarily represented in the ADIHEX, which was launched in 2003 by the Emirates Falconers’ Club, and the announcement of the Unesco in 2010 of the registration of falconry in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage through international efforts led by the UAE.

Majid Ali Al Mansouri, Secretary General of the Emirates Falconers’ Club and President of the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey (IAF), said that Abu Dhabi worked early on developing an effective strategy for the sustainability of this heritage sport, based on expanding captive breeding to produce enough high-quality birds for sale at reasonable prices. This was done in conjunction with awareness campaigns targeting falconry enthusiasts to preserve wild falcons and limit their hunting.

The use of captive-bred falcons in falconry has lessened the pressure on wild falcons and increased their numbers. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

He emphasised that such efforts reflect the concern of the leadership to preserve heritage and sustainable hunting. This ongoing and intense effort to strike a balance between the UAE’s aspirations for comprehensive development and progress and preserving its cultural and social legacies is a unique experiment that has won the admiration and appreciation of the world.

The use of captive-bred falcons in falconry has lessened the pressure on wild falcons and increased their numbers. Abu Dhabi’s research and scientific efforts has helped in improving the breeds of falcons to become stronger and more immune to fungi and diseases. It also worked on producing selected species with distinctive hunting qualities and aesthetics.

Abu Dhabi International Hunting & Equestrian Exhibition

ADIHEX, which is held annually in Abu Dhabi, is an ideal regional and global forum from which to promote sustainable hunting. Thousands of visitors to the exhibition, including falconers from the UAE, the GCC, and around the world, are encouraged to use captive-bred falcons.

ADIHEX succeeded in promoting the idea that captive-bred falcons have proven to be as skilled and efficient at hunting as their wild counterparts, if properly cared for and trained. The event has played a major role in the transformation of falconry in the region to the almost universal use of captive-bred falcons in a sport which is so deeply rooted in Emirati heritage. This has also resulted in an increase in the number of falcon breeding facilities around the world.

ADIHEX is an important opportunity for both falconers and falcon breeders, because it coincides with the start of both the hunting season and the season for falconry competitions and championships, with the end of one year and the beginning of the next. This is the prime time for falconers to start acquiring the best captive-bred falcons with which to compete in local and regional events, as well as using them to practice falconry in nature reserves that allow it.

This is in addition to the start of the annual hunting season at the Al Marzoom Reserve, which opens its doors to falconers and traditional hunting enthusiasts from November to February, and the high season at the Mohammed bin Zayed Falconry and Desert Physiognomy School in Remah and Tilal Resort in Al Ain.

ADIHEX has become an international platform that recognises and presents the finest captive-bred falcon breeds in Abu Dhabi. It allows people of all nationalities to purchase falcons of high quality and excellent hunting capabilities, which encouraged entrepreneurs around the world to invest in the captive-bred falcon industry.

This is an ideal opportunity for breeders and merchants of captive-bred falcons, individuals or facilities, to hold auctions and sell their falcons directly to thousands of falconers looking to buy the finest captive-bred falcons during the next edition of ADIHEX.

The UAE’s leading role in falcon breeding research

In 1989, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, gave directions to encourage and benefit from breeding falcons in captivity for sustainable use and to reduce pressure on endangered wild populations. A few years later, Abu Dhabi established several breeding facilities, inside and outside the Emirates, which have been able to produce thousands of captive-bred falcons.

These include centres in the United Kingdom and other European countries, while appropriate methods were developed by teams of specialists to train the falcons to hunt.

ADIHEX succeeded in promoting the idea that captive-bred falcons have proven to be as skilled and efficient at hunting as their wild counterparts. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan donated hundreds of falcons to falconers participating in previous editions of ADIHEX. This was done out of Sheikh Khalifa’s keenness to support the preservation of the country’s ancient heritage and the falconry from extinction by promoting sustainable hunting, as well as encouraging falconers to use the captive-bred falcons as an alternative to endangered wild falcons.

Training falcons to fly freely in the air is the most important step in breeding and training, because it allows young chicks to spend time in their natural environment so that they grow and mature physically and mentally.

Abu Dhabi supports genetic researches and studies of falcons, through cooperation with the Wildlife Advisory Group, Cardiff University, and the Beijing Institute of Genomics, it was able to determine the genetic make-up of the Eurasian Saker Falcon and the Peregrine Falcon, and identify genes that determine the colour of feathers in Gyr Falcons, and using the DNA to select individual Saker Falcons and study their ability to survive in Mongolia, in addition to discovering the overall genome of the Saker Falcon and the Peregrine Falcon.

Spain overtakes the UK, and falcon facilities in Russia are new competitors

According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Spain has now become the largest global source of captive-bred falcons. The President of the Spanish Falconry Association, Manuel Diego Pareja-Obregon, said that Spanish breeders exported about 2,800 falcons to the Gulf region last year and in doing so they overtook the UK, which exported about 2,500 falcons.

Training falcons to fly freely in the air is the most important step in breeding and training. Image Credit: Supplied

More than three thousand people are employed in falcon breeding centres throughout Spain, carrying out everything involved in breeding, raising, and training them. Among the advantages of Spain, its weather, which makes these birds resistant to heat.

Last year, the Government of the Kamchatka Territory in Russia announced the construction of the first falcon breeding facility in the far east of the country. The facility will be completed in 2022 and aims to attract falconers, as well as tourists. The project includes breeding centres and a field for training falcons, it aims to revive populations of birds of prey that the region has been famous since ancient times but lost this wealth to illegal poaching and smuggling of the birds.