World’s largest falcon hospital cares for UAE’s heritage

A falcon receives medical treatment at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. (Reuters)
Updated 29 April 2019
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World’s largest falcon hospital cares for UAE’s heritage

  • In the Arab world, falcons are more than pets and falconry is more than a sport
  • Falcons are recognized internationally as endangered and only captive bred falcons can be legally owned in the UAE

ABU DHABI: When a falcon in the Gulf Arab countries falls sick, the owners of these much-loved and expensive hunting birds know where to take them: The world’s largest falcon hospital, in Abu Dhabi.

“It’s their baby, they want the best for it,” said hospital director Margit Muller, a German veterinarian with over 25 years experience in treating falcons.

“Sometimes when the falcons have an accident at night, the owners will sit there for hours into the early morning.”

The birds are more than pets and the practice is more than a sport.

Falconry is an important part of the cultural desert heritage of the Arabs of the UAE and neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia going back thousands of years.

“The Bedouin used falcons to hunt meat ... so the falcon was essential to ensure the survival of the Bedouin’s family,” said Muller. “(The birds) have always been considered like the children of the family and this remains until today.”

With flight speeds exceeding 300 km an hour, falcons can suffer serious injuries as they collide with prey, misjudge a landing or ingest infected meat.

The government-supported Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is the world’s main center for falcon medicine, research and training. Its subsidised prices means people of all income levels can use its falcon care, Muller said.

“Nowadays falconry is one of the very few opportunities for the former Bedouin to reconnect to their past,” she said.

Falcons are recognized internationally as endangered and only captive bred falcons can be legally owned in the UAE.

Hunting in the UAE outside a few special reserves is illegal, so owners train their birds using meat and then fly them to countries like Pakistan, Morocco and the central Asian region during colder months.

The UAE issues falcons their own passports and the birds travel with their owners in airplane cabins, sometimes dozens at a time for specific hunting trips. 


Iran’s Khamenei: Tehran will not leave UK piracy unanswered

Updated 7 min 34 sec ago
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Iran’s Khamenei: Tehran will not leave UK piracy unanswered

  • The Iranian supertanker, carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, was seized with the help of British Royal Marines
  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the seizure of the ship “piracy”

DUBAI: Iran’s top leader says his country will retaliate over the seizure of an Iranian tanker by British authorities.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the seizure of the ship “piracy” in a televised speech Tuesday, saying: “God willing, the Islamic Republic and its committed forces will not leave this evilness without a response.”
The Iranian supertanker, carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, was seized with the help of British Royal Marines earlier this month off Gibraltar.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Saturday that Britain will facilitate the release the ship if Iran can provide guarantees the vessel will not breach European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria. Tensions have soared in the Persian Gulf over the past year as the Trump administration has ramped up sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.