Rare-breed falcon sold for record-breaking $93,000 at Saudi auction

Falconry is an ancient hobby that has taken off into a multi-million dollar business in the Gulf region. (SPA)
Falconry is an ancient hobby that has taken off into a multi-million dollar business in the Gulf region. (SPA)
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Updated 23 August 2021

Rare-breed falcon sold for record-breaking $93,000 at Saudi auction

Rare-breed falcon sold for record-breaking $93,000 at Saudi auction
  • The bird of prey is a Super White Gyrfalcon farkh
  • It was bred by the Canada-based Jim Wilson Falcons company

JEDDAH: A rare falcon has been sold for a record-breaking $93,347, the highest amount ever paid at a Saudi auction for falcon breeders.

On day eight of the International Falcon Breeders Auction, organized by the Saudi Falcons Club, bidding for the Super White Gyrfalcon farkh (under a year old) from the Canada-based Jim Wilson Falcons opened at $66,676 and closed at $93,347. 

The identity of the buyer has not been revealed and it is usual practice for the bird to named after it has been sold.  

The falcon is 18.5 inches long and wide. It weighs 1.6 kilos and is the most expensive falcon to be sold at the auction, breaking the record for the rare Saudi-bred falcon Raghwan that was sold for $72,000 earlier this month.

Falconry is an ancient hobby that has taken off into a multi-million dollar business in the region. It has seen some of the fastest, most beautiful, and most intelligent falcons sold based on their distinct features and lineage at record-breaking prices.

Abdullah Shamrookh, a falconer with more than two decades of experience, said buying these birds for breeding was a lucrative and long-term business and that the market was becoming very competitive due to the birds’ rarity.

The success rate of breeding farms has made falcon owners not only increase the number of falcons they own, it’s more about strategy now.

Abdullah Shamrookh, a falconer

“Some prefer purebred and specialize in them while others prefer hybrids, and the success rate of breeding farms have made falcon owners not only increase in the number of falcons they own, it’s more about strategy now,” he told Arab News. “Purchasing falcons now is very much dependent on their lineage, characteristics, and origins.”

Faris Al-Faris, the spokesman for Jim Wilson Falcons, said the farm bred about 300 falcons annually to the same quality as Sunday’s record-breaking bird.

He said that the farm achieved more first places in Al-Mazayen competitions (falcon beauty contests) and falconry races than any other international farm.

Another falcon was sold in the auction for $24,803 and a third bird would be put up for sale in the coming days, he added.


Party leader? Finland’s highly-celebrated female PM displays a whole different definition

Party leader? Finland’s highly-celebrated female PM displays a whole different definition
Updated 25 min 15 sec ago

Party leader? Finland’s highly-celebrated female PM displays a whole different definition

Party leader? Finland’s highly-celebrated female PM displays a whole different definition
  • PM Sanna Marin has whipped up a social media storm after a leaked video of her partying

LONDON: Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has whipped up a social media storm after a leaked video appeared to show the premier taking her role as “party leader” to a whole new level.

In the video, the 36-year-old darling of Finland’s center-left is seen partying and throwing shapes with friends, including famous media personalities, pop singers and rappers.

The video has divided Twitter, with many praising Marin as the “coolest leader ever.”

But some have pointed out the hypocrisy of praising the PM, given the level of criticism thrown at her UK male counterpart, Boris Johnson, for his lockdown antics during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Johnson was branded a “clown” for his lockdown parties, but Marin’s dancing was deemed “stunning and brave,” @jedi_greek pointed out.

The UK prime minister faced police probes and overwhelming political pressure to resign over gatherings he attended during the pandemic, but Finnish politics journalist and media commentator Robert Sundman told the BBC Marin’s partying had so far “not affected popularity of her or her party.”

Amid the swathes of positive comments on social media, another pointed out the ridicule former US President Donald Trump came in for when he danced to “YMCA” at campaign rallies in 2020. 

Others, including fellow politicians, said Marin was shirking her duties in leading the Finnish people and slammed her behavior as “not fitting for a prime minister.”

Finnish conservative politician Aatu Puisto posted on Twitter saying Marin’s behavior was “clearly” too much.

Puisto told Arab News the office of prime minister had to be respected, regardless of the gender of its holder.

“In my perspective, the public opinion of the prime minister’s party video would be same, regardless of gender, this is not about the gender at all,” he told Arab News.

“The (office of) prime minister is an institution, in that place, you should have more respect for that institution,” he added.

Meanwhile, @Mihir_The1 tweeted: “She represents the highest office of her country. The problem isn’t the partying but to what extent she indulges in it and in other wasteful activities, if the time spent on them is excessive then she isn’t fit to be PM and should vacate her post in the interests of her nation.”

Lawyer and economist Saara Lifflander was scathing in highlighting that Marin was busy partying at the same time she was “preparing you for power cuts next winter.”

Marin sought to defend herself after the video became public, saying she did not see a reason to change her behavior.

Amid a backlash from opposition politicians, one leader demanded she take a drug test amid allegations of drug-taking.

However, Marin denied taking drugs and said she only drank alcohol while partying “in a boisterous way.”

She continued: “I have a family life, I have a work life and I have free time to spend with my friends, pretty much the same as many people my age.

“I am going to be exactly the same person as I have been until now and I hope that it will be accepted.”


Climate change causes wonky bumblebee wings: scientists

Climate change causes wonky bumblebee wings: scientists
Updated 18 August 2022

Climate change causes wonky bumblebee wings: scientists

Climate change causes wonky bumblebee wings: scientists
  • The large furry bees, known for their distinctive buzz, only feed on flowers, making them vulnerable to changes to the countryside due to intensive farming
  • Their population has declined in Britain over the past century, with two species becoming extinct

LONDON: Warmer and wetter weather linked to climate change appears to stress out bumblebees and make their wings more asymmetrical, which could ultimately affect their future development, according to UK scientists in a new research paper.
“With hotter and wetter conditions predicted to place bumblebees under higher stress, the fact these conditions will become more frequent under climate change means bumblebees may be in for a rough time over the 21st century,” scientists at Imperial College, London, wrote in the Animal Ecology journal on Wednesday.
The large furry bees, known for their distinctive buzz, only feed on flowers, making them vulnerable to changes to the countryside due to intensive farming.
Their population has declined in Britain over the past century, with two species becoming extinct, according to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
The Imperial College scientists looked at more than 6,000 bumblebee specimens in natural history museums, collected across Britain during the 20th century.
The scientists examined the right-left symmetry between the bees’ four wings, because asymmetry is an indication that the insect experienced stress during development.
They found that bees from the second half of the 20th century consistently had a higher average rate of asymmetry.
Asymmetry was also “consistently higher in warmer and wetter years,” according to the paper’s senior co-author Richard Gill.
“Overall, these results could suggest bumblebees experienced increasing stress as the century progressed and that aspects of climate change could have contributed to this trend,” the paper said.
The weather conditions linked to wonky wings “will likely increase in frequency with climate change,” it continued.
In April, scientists in the United States who studied more than 20,000 bees in the Rocky Mountains found that bumblebees had lower heat tolerance than smaller bees and were “more threatened under climate warming than other bees.”
Insects are facing a huge impact from both warming climate and intensive agriculture.
Another study released in April in the journal Nature found that these factors cause insect populations to plummet by nearly half compared to areas less affected by temperature rises and industrial farming.


UAE: Extreme weather condition over – for now, but chance of rain in coming days

UAE: Extreme weather condition over – for now, but chance of rain in coming days
Updated 17 August 2022

UAE: Extreme weather condition over – for now, but chance of rain in coming days

UAE: Extreme weather condition over – for now, but chance of rain in coming days
  • Weather center also said some parts of the country would experience dusty winds for the rest of the week

DUBAI: UAE authorities say the extreme weather conditions across the country have ended, after a two-day sandstorm earlier this week hampered visibility and caused disruption.
The National Center of Meteorology (NCM) however said there was still a chance that some local convective clouds will form over some eastern and southern regions, in addition to Al-Ain and Al-Dhafra region, with a possibility of rain in the coming days.
The weather center also said some parts of the country would experience dusty winds for the rest of the week.
“Fair to partly cloudy in general and dusty at times, with a probability of convective clouds formation Eastwards by afternoon, may be associated with rainfall. Light to moderate winds, fresh at times, causing blowing dust during daytime. The sea will be slight in the Arabian Gulf and in Oman Sea,” NCM said in its weather bulletin for Wednesday, Aug. 17.
Temperatures could reach as high as 47°C in internal areas of the UAE and as low as 24°C in mountain areas, the center added.


Monkey business behind 911 call from California zoo

Monkey business behind 911 call from California zoo
Updated 17 August 2022

Monkey business behind 911 call from California zoo

Monkey business behind 911 call from California zoo
  • a Capuchin monkey named Route had apparently picked up the zoo's cellphone, which was in a golf cart used to move about the property

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif.: Cops usually have a prime suspect. In this case it's a primate suspect.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office believes it was a little Capuchin monkey that called 911 from a zoo last Saturday night.
The call disconnected and dispatchers tried to call and text back but there was no response, so deputies were sent to investigate, the office said in a social media post.
The address turned out to be the Zoo to You near Paso Robles, but the deputies found that no one there made the call.
They finally deduced that a Capuchin monkey named Route had apparently picked up the zoo's cellphone, which was in a golf cart used to move about the property.
“We’re told Capuchin monkeys are very inquisitive and will grab anything and everything and just start pushing buttons,” the office's post said.

 


OK Google, get me a Coke: AI giant demos soda-fetching robots

OK Google, get me a Coke: AI giant demos soda-fetching robots
Updated 17 August 2022

OK Google, get me a Coke: AI giant demos soda-fetching robots

OK Google, get me a Coke: AI giant demos soda-fetching robots

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California: Alphabet Inc’s Google is combining the eyes and arms of physical robots with the knowledge and conversation skills of virtual chatbots to help its employees fetch soda and chips from breakrooms with ease.
The mechanical waiters, shown in action to reporters last week, embody an artificial intelligence breakthrough that paves the way for multipurpose robots as easy to control as ones that perform single, structured tasks such as vacuuming or standing guard.
Google robots are not ready for sale. They perform only a few dozen simple actions, and the company has not yet embedded them with the “OK, Google” summoning feature familiar to consumers.

A Google robot moves while carrying a bag of chips during a demonstration for members of the media at a micro-kitchen in Google’s robotics research space in Mountain View, California, U.S. August 11, 2022. (REUTERS)

While Google says it is pursuing development responsibly, adoption could ultimately stall over concerns such as robots becoming surveillance machines, or being equipped with chat technology that can give offensive responses, as Meta Platforms Inc. and others have experienced in recent years.
Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. are pursuing comparable research on robots.
“It’s going to take a while before we can really have a firm grasp on the direct commercial impact,” said Vincent Vanhoucke, senior director for Google’s robotics research.
When asked to help clean a spill, Google’s robot recognizes that grabbing a sponge is a doable and more sensible response than apologizing for creating the mess.
The robots interpret naturally spoken commands, weigh possible actions against their capabilities and plan smaller steps to achieve the ask.
The chain is made possible by infusing the robots with language technology that draws understanding of the world from Wikipedia, social media and other webpages. Similar AI underlies chatbots or virtual assistants, but has not been applied to robots this expansively before, Google said.
It unveiled the effort in a research paper in April. Incorporating more sophisticated language AI since then boosted the robots’ success on commands to 74 percent from 61 percent, according a company blog post on Tuesday.
Fellow Alphabet subsidiary Everyday Robots designs the robots, which for now will stay confined to grabbing snacks for employees.