Following the 29th release of endangered Saker and Peregrine falcons into the wild in June, the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme (SZFRP) has now rewilded a total of 2,211 birds to date. The latest release confirms the UAE’s commitment to the programme, launched 29 years ago in 1995.

The programme is implemented under the auspices of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), who supervises its implementation in partnership with the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), which has oversight of the technical and field aspects. In addition to veterinary services provided by Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH), the SZFRP receives significant support from the Advisor of Private Affairs at the Presidential Court, and the UAE Embassy in Kazakhstan.

This year, the programme released 52 falcons – 23 Peregrine falcons and 29 Saker falcons – under the supervision of the forests and wildlife committee at the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture, on 5-6 May in the Karaganda region – a key region for migrating falcons. Analysis of satellite tracking data has revealed that several falcons released by the programme in the past have previously used the Karaganda region. Moreover, Kazakhstan is among the species’ wider migration zone that covers areas of Russia, China, Mongolia and neighbouring countries. Kazakhstan is also an ideal location for falcon release due to its mountains and plains, which are situated within the falcons’ migration range, and are host to the prey essential for falcons to breed and thrive.

With this release, the 14th consecutive event in Kazakhstan, 911 falcons have been released in the country – 293 Saker falcons and 618 Peregrine falcons. The programme continues to strengthen Abu Dhabi’s efforts to preserve distinct types of falcons and supports the principles of environmental sustainability. It also protects biodiversity, and preserves important species while increasing their ability to overcome the risks posed by the expansion of human activities, climate change and other natural and human factors.

All of the programme’s falcons underwent a full range of medical examinations and extensive training, and received their final tests on the morning of launch. Each bird was implanted with an electronic chip and fitted with an identification ring. Eleven falcons were also fitted with satellite tracking devices powered by solar batteries to monitor survival rates, spread and traditional migration paths. The devices also collect scientific data used to develop methods of preparation, rehabilitation, training, release, and selection of suitable sites for falcons.

His Excellency Mohammed Ahmed Al Bowardi, Vice Chairman of EAD and the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, said: “In line with the directives of the UAE leadership, Abu Dhabi continues its global pioneering efforts in preserving nature and protecting wildlife. This includes our exceptional endeavours to preserve falcons, houbara and other wildlife of environmental, cultural and historical importance. As a result, we have succeeded in increasing their chances of overcoming risks that threaten their survival and prosperity in nature.”

His Excellency also commended the successful partnership with Kazakhstan in this regard and thanked the Kazakhstan authorities for their cooperation and facilitation of the joint team’s work in implementing the programme.

EAD extended its thanks to all falconers and those interested in wildlife for participating in this programme by donating wild Saker and Peregrine falcons to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. The birds are then tested, rehabilitated and released according to regulations, and in line with scientific protocols used to promote wildlife and support efforts to preserve falcons in their natural habitats.