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Scientists from Abu Dhabi and Boise collaborate to protect falcons

Posted at 3:04 PM, Apr 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-14 17:04:45-04

The Mohamed Bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Fund from the United Arab of Emirates will fund three years of research for the Peregrine Fund to study how climate change effects falcons near the polar ice caps.

"Raptors are apex predators which means they are at the top of the food chain so if we can study raptors then we can understand entire ecosystems," said Heather Meuleman of the Peregrine Fund. "Climate change plays an important role, there is a lot to learn about it and there is a lot we still don't know."

Research will focus on the gyrfalcon's habitat near the poles

The main focus will be on studying the gyrfalcon, the largest falcon in the world that lives near the north and south poles.

"We want to look at how we can unravel the population dynamics of species like the gyrfalcon and lead towards prioritizing conservation actions," said Munir Virani, the Chief Operating Officer of the Mohamed Bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Fund.

The Archives of Falconry

We caught up with Meuleman and Virani at the Archives of Falconry at the World Center for Birds of Prey just south of Boise. There is a lot of history with falcons and conservation.

"The founding father of the United Arab Emirates is His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan," said Virani. "He organized the very first falconry conference in 1976."

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan

At that conference, His Highness met Professor Tom Cade who founded the Peregrine Fund and it started a friendship as both men loved raptors and even after their deaths, their passion lives on through conservation.

"The friendship between Abu Dhabi and Boise has continued to this date," said Virani. “Raptors are a unique species and one of the only ways that has been proven for their success in the wild is through the use of falconry techniques."

A statue of Tom Cade

Abu Dhabi funded the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Wing in the Archives of Falconry in 2005, the Mohamed Bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Fund paid for a complete renovation of the wing in 2022 and now they have partnered with the Peregrine Fund for research.

"If you imagine 2,000 years ago in the desert you had Bedouins that used falcons as part of their traditions and culture to hunt and feed on the spoils along with their falcons," said Virani. "This is a culture and tradition that continues today."

Falconry is a part of Arabian culture and tradition

Currently, the Archives of Falconry is closed for more renovations, it's estimated to open later this summer, possibly in July.

It's also one year since the World Center for Birds of Prey finished their addition and they have seen record admissions in the past year.