Photos: Falconry in Abu Dhabi's Al Dhafra desert

Photos: Falconry in Abu Dhabi's Al Dhafra desert
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An Emirati falconer trains his falcon before the end of the season in the Al Dhafra desert. For 4,000 years, Bedouin in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and wider Arabian Peninsula practised falconry as an essential form of hunting in a resource-scarce land. However, its role in society has changed over time, and today it is one of the UAE’s most honoured traditional sports. The falconry season in the UAE starts in the Autumn when falcons begin migrating to their breeding sites between October and March. Image Credit: AFP
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The UAE began its interest in preserving falconry as a human heritage since the beginning of its inception and particularly since 1976. Image Credit: AFP
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The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who practised falconry from a young age, was a tremendous proponent of the sport of falconry and supported its conservation. He embodied the values of falconry and practised the sport often. He launched many initiatives to promote the sport, including a falcon release programme and the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, which has become the world';s largest falcon hospital. Image Credit: AFP
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An internationally protected bird species, the houbara bustard, is a vital link in the falconry chain emblematic to Arabic culture. It is a prized prey that the UAE is keen to protect and preserve but also see flourish. Above, a male houbara bustard dances. Image Credit: AFP
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The houbara bustard is an integral part of Emirati culture and heritage. Image Credit: AFP
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The UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was the first to notice in 1970 that the population of the houbara was declining rapidly and proposed a breeding programme to prevent the extinction of the houbara across territories of distribution from Morocco to China. Image Credit: AFP
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There is a strong demand for courses teaching the art of Arabian falconry. The Mohamed bin Zayed Falconry and Desert Physiognomy School, in the Remah and Telal Resort in the Al Ain region, has witnessed strong demand for its courses in the art of Arabian falconry and the traditions of living in the desert. Image Credit: Gulf News archives
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Training involves teaching the falcon to swoop down and attack a feathered training decoy tied to a string and controlled by the trainer. As the bird swoops to catch the decoy, the trainer pulls it away. Done time and again, the bird learns to make repeated attempts until it sees its target. When the bird is ready for live practice, pigeons are used to complete the training. Both the training process and hunting sport require patience and an understanding of the falconer’s bird. Above, Falcon at the Falcon competition as part of Al Dhafra Festival. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News archives
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The UAE has used more than 2,700 satellite tracking systems to monitor Houbara movements across the globe. This tracking initiative, which dates back to the 1990s, has improved the success rates of the breeding scheme by allowing the birds to be monitored in their natural environment. Image Credit: AFP