Around 4,000 Saker Falcons are electrocuted each year in Central Asia alone due to poorly designed power poles. Image Credit: Organiser

Abu Dhabi: A new foundation has been formed to help combat the needless deaths of thousands of falcons from electrocution every year around the world.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has launched the foundation for the conservation of raptors with a $20 million (Dh73.4) endowment.

He also committed initial seed funding of $1 million to tackle the issue of electrocution of falcons.

The Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Foundation will fund and roll out raptor conservation projects in collaboration with stakeholders.

The announcement was made by Mohammad Al Bawardi, managing director, Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi, while addressing a summit of global conservationists discussing the world’s migratory birds currently being held on Yas Island.

“Electrocution is a major cause of mortality of raptors and other bird species. As the network of power distribution lines grows across the world, the problem is increasing. Technical solutions are available that can remedy the problem, such as hardware designs for new lines and simple remedial work on existing lines,” the foundation said in a statement on Thursday.

“The International Association of Falconry stated that an estimated 4,000 endangered Saker Falcons are killed each year in Central Asia alone due to poorly designed power poles. A study, funded by the Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi conducted with the Eastern Energy System power company in Mongolia, demonstrated the electrocution of 55 Saker Falcons per 10 kilometres of power-line per year on a test section. The study also reported that electrocution rates could be significantly reduced at a cost of less than €18 per power pole.”

The initial project is set to be launched at an international conference in the first quarter of 2019 where all concerned organisations — legislators, scientists, researchers, manufacturers, power companies, project funders and other related entities — will be invited to help end the bird deaths.

“Electrocution of raptors is a conservation priority that requires an international response. With the growth of power distribution lines, the problem will only get worse,” said Al Bawardi in a statement.

“This is more than just an issue of conservation of birds, it requires governments, regulators and private industry to have a coordinated response as birds are vital in the species chain and an indicator of the health of our planet. To make this a reality His Highness [Shaikh Mohammad] has launched the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Foundation with an endowment and we have committed an initial $1m of seed funding to electrocution projects. We are extremely grateful for His Highness’ support in this critical mission.”

Abu Dhabi has a well-established programme to conserve raptors, such as the iconic Saker Falcon. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital was a first of its kind in the world, while thousands of falcons have been released into the wild under the Shaikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme.

“Abu Dhabi has long been a leader in raptor conservation, and this initiative is further step along the journey to which are committed,” Al Bawardi added.