UAE conservation fund saves thousands of falcons, raptors from electrocution

    16 Oct 2021

    The Mohamed Bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Fund has been able to successfully tackle the problems of electrocution of raptors by power lines and conserve their habitats, a top official said. Three projects supported the restoration of the birds of prey and their habitats, Khaleejtimes reports.

    The Fund was created in April 2018 by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

    CEO Munir Virani pointed out how three signature projects have supported the conservation and restoration of raptors and their habitats.

    Solution for shocks

    The first of the projects is based in Mongolia, which has 56 species of birds of prey. While the falcon is the national bird of the UAE, the endangered saker falcon is the national bird of Mongolia.

    According to a study done by the Fund, 20,000 birds in general – including 4,000 saker falcons – die every year because of the power lines that pose an electrocution risk in Mongolia.

    “When the birds perch on the concrete poles and touch a power cable, they get electrocuted and die,” said Virani.

    “Studies done through the Fund showed that, annually, 18,000 birds of prey die. The steppe zone is flat, so the poles are the only perching site. They perch and get electrocuted.”

    The Fund, therefore, started the Mongolia electrical infrastructure remediation project. A simple, innovative and cost-effective plastic mould was used to insulate the power line and save thousands of birds of prey.

    “Through a simple design, we were able to prevent passage of power and the birds don’t get electrocuted. This is real conservation in action,” he said.

    The Fund began the process of remediating 30,000 power poles in the steppe zones. So far, it has completed a majority of the project, reducing mortalities by 98% and ensuring the future survival of the iconic falcon as well as other raptors.

    Ensuring successful conservation

    The second project is the saker falcon reintroduction program in Bulgaria where the species was considered extinct. Launched in 2015, the program has resulted in 80 falcons being released into the wild.

    “One pair bred in the wild successfully and that has given us hope. So, over the next five years, we are planning to release 100 saker falcons,” Virani said.

    The third project is the genetic management of captive bred falcons. The study aims to ensure a genetically healthy and representative founding stock of falcons for release.

    It will do this by evaluating origins of falcons within the program and confirming that they are representative from the recipient population. The study ensures maintaining diversity within the captive population, and breeding falcons that are genetically fit for release in the wild.

    “These programs have been done through developing partnerships and collaborations. We pride ourselves in ensuring successful conservation outcomes,” Virani added.

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