The UAE, being the first country in the Middle East to sign the Declaration of Intent for World Falcon Day, reflects the country's commitment in protecting endangered species, according to Dr Mohammed Salman Al Hammadi, Assistant Under-Secretary for Biodiversity and Marine Life Sector at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The United Arab Emirates has become the first country in the Middle East to sign a Declaration of Intent for the ‘World Falcon Day.’

This was during the participation of the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment at the first forum of the Falcon Day “Gyrfalcon”, held in Vladivostok, Russia.

Dr Mohammed Salman Al Hammadi, Assistant Under-Secretary for Biodiversity and Marine Life Sector at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment said: “The UAE is a pioneer in the global efforts to protecting biodiversity and enhancing natural habitats. Being the first country in the Middle East signing the Declaration of Intent for World Falcon Day reflects UAE commitment to protecting endangered species. The falcon has strong links to our cultural identity for centuries now, and nurturing and breeding falcons are part of our heritage.”

Protecting falcons

“Signing the declaration comes ahead of the UAE hosting COP28 in November, underlining our efforts to promote endangered species and protect their natural habitats. We will work with other signatories to mobilise international efforts under COP28’s umbrella as well as other events to adopt “World Falcon Day”. This will help increase efforts to protect falcons. We also look forward to announcing more initiatives to promote biodiversity in the UAE, especially those related to protecting falcons.”

The Declaration of Intent for “World Falcon Day” aims to support the efforts of various nations in preserving the population of Gyrfalcon. This calls for intergovernmental cooperation and putting global agreements into action. The Declaration also aims at monitoring Gyrfalcon chicks and their food sources, as well as preventing the illegal hunting, smuggling and trafficking of the falcons. The goal is to strengthen the work of organisations involved in scientific research and education, and to develop financing mechanisms for the long-term preservation of falcons.

The gyrfalcon lime falcon is one of the rarest species in the Falconidae family, found in polar, sub-polar and cold temperate regions of Europe, Asia and North America.

There is serious concern about the decline in their numbers, owing to the loss, degradation and fragmentation of their natural habitats, depletion of food sources, illegal hunting and trafficking. Additionally, Gyrfalcons, as a predator at the top of the food pyramid, are important indicators of biodiversity and the sustainability of Arctic ecosystems.

UAE’s Progressive Efforts

The UAE was one of the first countries to drive focused initiatives to protect falcons. The late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan provided support for protecting migratory animals and birds, and also launched the “Falcon Release Program” in 1995 to ensure they are not endangered.

The programme supports the release of falcons into the wild and is carried out annually in a number of countries to rehabilitate confiscated falcons and other birds of prey.

The most common types of falcons in the UAE are Gyrfalcons, Saker falcon and peregrine falcon.

The UAE is a signatory of international conventions aimed at protecting falcons from extinction, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1990, which regulates the international trade in falcons.

Falconers can travel with the falcons across international borders only after all necessary conditions have been met. The UAE has also issued Federal Law No. 11 of 2002 regulating and controlling the international trade of endangered animals and plants.