Saudi Arabia/UAE/WORLD: It’s Not Just People Who Get Passports

The sport of falconry has been a tradition in the Arab world, to include Saudi Arabia, since the time of the Mesopotamian civilization. Living in the Arab world it is not an unusual scene to see falcon trainers and their owners at international airports with the hooded falcon perching calmly on their arm.

Falconry is an elite sport in the Arab world and the falcons are specially trained through operant conditioning using food as a reward for positive reinforcement.  Contrary to popular belief, there is little more than a relationship of convenience between the falcon and its owner.  Unlike other creatures, falcons do not bond or have affection for their owner.  They do learn to trust their owner for the provision of food.

Falconry remains an important part of the Arab heritage and culture. The UAE reportedly spends over 27 million dollars annually towards the protection and conservation of wild falcons, and has set up several state-of-the-art falcon hospitals in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.[17] The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is the largest falcon hospital in the whole world. There are two breeding farms in the Emirates, as well as those in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Every year, falcon beauty contests and demonstrations take place at the ADIHEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

Due to the popularity of falcons, some Arab States such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have issued falcon passports.  The issuance of such passports is to ease the ability of traveling with a falcon.  However, at the same time, the falcon passports also have raised some controversy as they are seen by some as “legal mechanism to launder falcons” on the Black Market.

While there is controversy on whether falcons should have passports, falcons do remain one of the most graceful birds of prey in action.

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4 Responses

  1. FWIW ….

    Very informative and fascinating video on sport of falconry. Enjoyed the video! Guess you learn something new every day :)-

    Not sure if Eagles and Falcons are related to one another, but after looking at the pics, I find great physical resemblance between the two, though. Especially Golden Eagles and Falcons.

    Besides physical resemblance, just like the falcons, golden eagles are also one of the best known birds of prey. The highest density of nesting golden eagles in the world lies in southern Alameda County, California. Also, like falcons, golden eagles can be trained for sport hunting. And like falcons, they are treated with great mystic reverence.

    Similar to falcons, golden eagles use their agility and speed combined with extremely powerful talons to snatch up prey including rabbits, marmots, ground squirrels, and large mammals such as foxes, wild and domestic cats, mountain goats, ibex, and young deer. They will also eat carrion if prey is scarce, as well as reptiles. Birds, including large species up to the size of swans and cranes as well as ravens and black-backed gulls have all been recorded as prey. Like falcons, they have even been known for sport hunting and trained to attack and kill fully grown roe deer and wolves in many farming communities.

    Here is a pic of a golden eagle:

    http://Golden Eagle Pic

  2. OoPs! Here is the correct link for the golden eagle pic …

  3. A dear friend of mine, here in Fresno, got involved in the Wild Animal Rescue organization. As a result, there was nothing she wanted so much as a Saudi Falconer’s glove (hard to find). I asked my children’s father if he could find one, which, God reward him, he did–through a Najdi friend.
    My own friend, Katheryn, is soooooooo proud of her Saudi Bedouin falconer’s glove and has flaunted it at many events in which other (saved) wild flying creatures have looked on curiously, and other humanfalconers with envy. . . .

  4. Julia – what a wonderful story!

    One time I was with my husband in the UAE desert and we were at a camp which had a number of falcons. It was an experience I will never forget!

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