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. 


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.