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Falconry Sport

Introduction

Development of the falconry sport started more than 1400 years ago and became very popular in the countries of the Middle East and Asia. The sport in these countries is a symbol of society’s culture and traditions. Fifty percent of the world’s falconers come from this region. The sport of falconry was historically associated with the nobility as falcons symbolize the keen vision, swiftness, and boldness. Today, falconry faces a serious threat caused by the habitat destruction, deceased, and pesticides. The authorities of the Arab countries try to solve the problem by means of developing the appropriate regulations and implementing specific programs. The paper is based on the study of various species of the falcons and their role in the falconry sport that has been analyzed through the investigation of its rules, maintenance, and trapping peculiarities of the birds, which should know the trainers and keepers with the aim to improve their skills and encourage the increase of the population.

Historical Aspects of the Falconry Development

There are two notions that are widely used for description of people who are working in falconry, namely the falconers who fly the hawk or eagle and falconers who fly a falcon. Falconry originated in the Gulf region in Mesopotamia approximately in 2000 D.C. The Bedouin tribesmen also practiced falconry to make their diet more diverse (Lo, 2015). Today, falconry is an important part of the Arab heritage and culture.  The countries of Middle East even forbid the consumption of falcons. Thus, many people started to use the birds for hunting. During a long period, the Arab communities acquired the knowledge from the ancestors concerning the catching, hunting, and maintaining of the falcons. The first records about the falconry in the Middle East and Japan were reported around 720 A.D (Lo, 2015). The sport also is supposed to have existed in Arabia and Persia much earlier than it appeared in Japan. The increase of trade between Arabia Far East and Europe caused the rise of interest to falconry. The gained experience showed that maintaining the falconry was an expensive venture (Lo, 2015). Thus, falconry became popular only among the nobles. Besides, professional falconers were often very highly paid. Consequently, the Golden Age of falconry ended several centuries ago. However, the analysis of the issue showed that in the Middle East falconry remained a popular sport of the nobility. The falconers of the Middle East often purchase the birds spending near $100 000 for the wild caught falcon (Lo, 2015). The UAE spends approximately 27 million dollars annually to support and protect their wild falcons and has even built several hospitals that are specialized in the treatment of these birds.

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Species of Falcons and Their Peculiarities

The crucial factor in the falconry sport is the selection of the specific species of falcons, the most popular of which are Peregrine, Gyr, and Saker. Peregrine is famous because of its ability to attack the preys fast. Peregrine falcon is also specialized in catching the medium size birds in the air (Lo, 2015). Gyr falcon belongs to the coastal populations that are of medium size and are feeding on the ducks, auks, and waders. Saker is smaller than Gyr and usually hunts in the open steppe areas using various techniques. Falcons include various hybrids that have high skills of hunting due to the selective breeding. However, the hybrids are much more expensive (Dixon, 2012). There is also a number of falcon quarries that include prey species pursued by the falcons. The most popular are houbara bustard, stone curlew, and the Arabian hare. The most favorite prey of falcons is houbara bestards because it has a specific taste and a high medical value (Dixon, 2012). However, the quantity of houbara significantly decreased and this requires close attention of the authorities with the aim to prevent the extinction of this species.

Technologies of the Falcons’ Training

Falcons are trained by the skilled trainers to teach the bird the perfect hunting skills. The primary aim of the training is the formation of obedience. Until recently, it had been difficult to retain the falcons because of the inappropriate seasons and lack of food. That is why the best hunters were released at the end of the hunting season (Dixon, 2012). The major progress in taming the falcons can be reached during the sealed period when the falcons begin to understand the sounds and tactile sensation. The crucial factor is that while moulting the falcons can forget the hunting techniques that have been learnt during the training. Consequently, after the moulting the trainer will have to retrain the bird for hunting (Dixon, 2012).

The objective of the falconry sport is to teach the bird to hunt and catch quarry with the trained falcons. The female falcons are more widely used for hunting. The good trainer always lets the bird to eat a little bit of the prey after successful hunting (Dixon, 2009). The targeted birds try to escape from the attacker that only encourages the bird to hunt and develop its skills and attention. Falcons usually use two types of hunting techniques that include the chase and grab, and high-speed stoop in hunting during the low flight is a search and chase method of hunting that helps to catch birds and mammals. The Saker has long legs and big catching toes that make them more suitable for the desert hunting. During the straggle, the feathers of Saker are not damaged as much as Peregrine’s (Dixon, 2012). Gyr falcon is bigger than Saker that helps to hunt the larger preys. Its ultra-light houbara and ability of the razor-sharp turning helps to use the grab tactic and simplifies the sudden changing of the direction to catch bigger and faster preys (Dixon, 2012).

The falconry sport also requires specific equipment that supports maintenance of the birds. The crucial factor is also the presence of applications that prevent the falcons from flying off. Tether is made of leather and is used for restraining the bird (Dixon, 2012). The free ends are brought together and are tied in the single cord. As a traditional means of protection from the falcon’s claws, the falconers use special gloves. An interesting fact is that the world of falcons is mainly visualized and helps to remove any obstacles from vision that would distract the bird.  The burqa is a protection hood for the birds that functions as a blindfold for the falcons. The trainer also uses the specific equipment that is called tilwah with the aim of exercising the falcons. It is used for calling the falcon back at the great distances (Dixon, 2012).

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Evidently, the crucial stage of the falcon training it their trapping that requires the use of specific methodology. The first method of the falcon trapping is luring that is based on the use of the pigeon as bait. The alternative method includes the use of the bait bird with the noose frame attached (Dixon, 2009). The pigeon is throwing opposite the falcon with the aim to conceal the association of the prey with the trapper. If everything goes in a right way, the falcon will sit on the top of the pigeon and during the killing and eating of its prey will set the long toes in the nooses (Dixon, 2009). The third frequently used method is called little worth and is usually used for the Luggar falcon. The method consists in attaching the bait with the light feather to the leg of bizzuar. During the period when it is downward, the vision is impaired and the bird cannot see the land. At that moment, another falcon sees the opportunity to rob (Dixon, 2009). The most progressive method is digging that is based on sighting the long distance away by the stationary falcon and quickly digging the hole in the sand. Thus, the body of a trapper is burred except of the head and hand with the glove. The trapper also has the pigeon tied to his wrist. Consequently, the trapper can move his hand to attract the attention of the falcon (Dixon, 2009). During the falcon’s eating of the prey, the man slowly catches the legs of the bird. After catching the falcon, the trapper quickly puts the cloth on the head of the falcon to frustrate the bird and prevent from the injury (Dixon, 2009).

Mortality, Maintenance, and Support the Life of Falcons

The analysis of the articles shows that the decrease of the falcon’s population is very often related to the accidents especially while flying into the objects. Thus, it is important for the trainers to pay significant attention to the development of appropriate methodology that could exclude the possibility of injuries (Dixon, 2009). As a rule, the falcons dive at a high speed not seeing the utility line or the barbed-wire fences. The frequent hazards are caused by the collision with sticks, branches, cliffs and tree-trunks. The other mortality factor is starvation and the effect of pesticides that influence the decline of the population. The crucial factors are also pollution and poisoning by such pesticides as DDT, dieldrine, and eldrine or eating of poisoned preys (Dixon, 2009). The analysis of the articles also showed that several populations of Peregrine were destroyed by the reproductive failures connected with poisoning by organochlorine compounds and DDE. The technique of membrane extraction allows the museums to preserve the eggshells in order to determine the chlorinated hydrocarbons pollutant levels (Dixon, 2009).

The study of the falconry showed that falcons are poached in large numbers because of their high cost. Besides, numerous farmers kill falcons to protect their poultry, which influences the quantity of birds (Dixon, 2009). The crucial factor is also inadequate care and treatment by the irresponsible trappers and poachers. The trainers during the trapping should pay significant attention to the prevention of damage to their wings and tail feathers. The feathers are exposed to injury during the tussles with a great quarry (Dixon, 2009). The loss of one or several feathers does not crucially influence the flight but it jeopardizes its adjacent. Thus, it is important to renew the feather by the imping after its breaking. The dead feathers can be cut at any point without the sensation by the bird. The experts in the Middle East pay significant attention to the overcoming of possible extinction of falcons and have formed numerous schemes to rehabilitate the falcons by releasing them into the wild and breeding them in captivity (Dixon, 2009). They also fit released falcons with the satellite transmitter that helps to prevent the extinction of the species and support the development of the sport.

Safety, Law, and Regulations

The other crucial factor that should be studied by the falcon keepers is safety and law. People have to know that not printed and printed in the bad way falcons can be very dangerous (Al-Daraji & Al-Shemmary, 2016). Great caution should be taken to ensure that the falcons are not within reach of the public and are under the trainer’s control. The birds with the stable mentality are usually aggressive. When the trainer or owner handles the falcon regularly, the bites and scratches are inevitable. Thus, it is important to take care about immediate inoculation, cleaning, and bandaging of the cuts (Al-Daraji & Al-Shemmary, 2016).

The trade of different wild species and fauna is rigidly regulated by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES). The government of UAE is the signatory of the CITES agreement adopted in 1990 (Al-Daraji & Al-Shemmary, 2016). The management authority of CITES registers the falcon captive breeding centers in the UAE. The appropriate certificates that testify the origin of the falcon is saved in the dreading centre. Such procedure allows the authority to provide the owners with the falcon passports and certificates that will let the owner to travel with the bird (Al-Daraji & Al-Shemmary, 2016). The wild falcons are also very often fitted by the microchips with the aim to follow their movements. The PIT tag is saved in the PIT Falcony Research Group’s database of the Middle East and allows to trade wild falcons. In case of the ring removal because of the injury, the specialist frequently uses specific chips that simplify the identification of the bird. The countries of the Middle East began to work on the support of falcons more seriously and constantly monitor their population. The recent investigation of the experts showed that the population of 3500 Saker falcons is in the captivity of Middle East (Al-Daraji & Al-Shemmary, 2016). The experts also use the DNA fingerprints to estimate the rate of the annual survival of Saker falcons that were released. It was evaluated that nearly 2500 Luggar falcons are trapped each year mostly in Pakistan.

Rules of the Sport

After the trapping of the falcon and deep study of the peculiarities of their maintenance and safety aspects, the owner should learn the rules of the sport (Barton, 2000). The first crucial factor is that the falcons cannot be kept in the cages and have to be enclosed in the mews with the space to fly around. Each bird should have the appropriate license. However, before gaining the title of “falconer” the owner should gain knowledge on how to take care about the bird. Falcons should have a perch on which to rest (Barton, 2000). The hodo also has to be present. It is also important to tie a bell to the leg of the falcon that will help to identify its location during the hunting. The owner should remember that it is not allowed to touch the bird of the other falconer during the hunting. Raptors do not like different people to touch them. The hunting season begins in the month of October and lasts until April (Barton, 2000). In the Middle East, even very prestige festivals are supported by the Emirates Falconers club hosts. There is also the Dubai Falconry Championship, and the Fazza Championship for Falconry. In Bahrain, the authorities organize the contest of falcons that is held every December near Al-Acreen Wildlife.

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Summary

The analysis of the articles showed that the falconry began with the aim to diversify the diet of normad and further evolved in the sport for the noble men. Arab people use falcons as a means of hunting because it is the only possible creature that helps to hunt in the desert areas where catching of such quarries as houbara bustard, stone curlew, and desert hare requires great distances (Al-Daraji & Al-Shemmary, 2016). Besides, shooting has been recently forbidden in several countries of the Arab world. There are a number of regulations and laws aimed to support the development of the sport in the Middle East countries.

The study of the articles showed that the predator birds are usually larger than their prey and this requires specific modulation of the flight. Thus, there were identified three idealized attach-escape situations between the prey bird and predatory, which include horizontal speeding, turning, and escape by diving and climbing flight escape (Barton, 2000). The skillful trainers take all measures to develop all three techniques of hunting in their birds. The study of the articles also showed that there are several species of falcons that are widely used in the sport. The Peregrine is the fastest one while Saker is the slowest. However, Saker falcons are more easily trained which makes them the ideal species for the falconry sport (Dixon, 2012). Shaheen is famous for its strength, and its claws are sharp and piercing. Gyr has the characteristics similar to the Peregrine and is a good companion and friend. The articles experts that study the falcons also admit that the birds are faced with the serious risks of extinction because of the consumption of DDT pesticides, dieldrine, and Aldrin or eating the preys that consume the pesticides (Dixon, 2012). Besides, the dieldrin and Aldrin are very toxic and frequently kill the embryo that crucially decreases the population (Dixon, 2012). The analysis of the regulations in relation to falconry helped to identify that the government of the Middle East efficiently works on the improvement of care, maintenance, and management of captive falcons through the  Falcon Foundation International (FFI) organization (Lo, 2015). Today, the falconry faces numerous problematic aspects that significantly influence the sport development. The problematic issues include the decrease of viable areas and habitant, isolation, as well as viable populations that lead to the inbreeding depression and gradual genetic isolation (Al-Daraji & Al-Shemmary, 2016). The other crucial factors are problems with environment stochasticity factors that may kill the genetically effective population in following 10 years. The additional problem consists in the human interference and shooting by the pigeon farmers and illegal trade. Political unrest especially in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan leave the population of falcons not protected because of weak enforcement of the conservation law (Dixon, 2012). Analysis of the past 12 years showed that the population of Peregrine falcons reduced by 10% and the captive breeding programs that are focused on rebuilding the population in captivity and wild species are not successful enough (Lo, 2015). Thus, today it is important to focus on the elaboration of more successful programs that will help to raise the population of falcons and further develop the sport.

Conclusion

The analysis of the articles proved that there are a number of different falcons that are used for the falconry sport. The falcons that are captive-bred are very strong, fast, and perfectly suitable for the desert life. The specific hybrids are more easily trained and cost less. The skilled trainers exercise the falcons on the hunting and quarry catching. However, despite the support and development of the birds people are the main threat that lies in the improvement of the modern technologies that lead to the decline of the falcons’ population. After understanding the increased threat, people started to think more seriously on the investigation of the problem’s solutions that were reflected in the registration of the falcons and creation of the specific passports for them. However, the problem continues to exist. The authorities should focus on the combination of captive breeding and release that will help to improve the habitat quality by means of establishing and sustaining the breeding population centers in the relevant areas.

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