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Saudi Prince’s 80 Hawks Aboard a Plane Become Objects of Intrigue

Saudi Prince's 80 Hawks Aboard a Plane Become Objects of Intrigue
PHOTOGRAPH: cloudzilla | Falcon show at the beautiful Qasr Al Sarab desert resort in Abu Dhabi.

Unusual photographs of animals in transit often generate attention. The recent snap of 80 birds on board a plane, reportedly brought by a Saudi prince, was posted on Reddit and it went viral.

Commenters on the thread injected humor to their statements. “My hawks possess the intrinsic ability to fly themselves to places,” one commenter said in jest.

The others joked that their take the train or ride tiny bikes but keep crashing into each other with their caps on. The serious commenters noted that the birds were most likely falcons that are trained to hunt.

The birds that were the object of ridicule and intrigue were presumed to be passport-toting falcons. A falcon — the national bird of the United Arab Emirates — may have immense value.

Pricey Traveling Birds of Prey

A well-bred falcon is said to fetch a price running up to a million dollars. Years back, following the crackdown on falcon smuggling by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Floral and Fauna, it became mandatory for falcons being transported through planes to acquire passports from the UAE before being permitted to travel.

The passport — with a three-year validity — lets a falcon travel to Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Syria, and Morocco.¬† The falcon passport serves as certification of the legal origin of the bird used for falconry.

The website of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment of the UAE also indicates that an added requirement for the issuance of a falcon passport is a letter of transfer by the former owner (in case of transfer). In any case, a falcon must have its own seat and measures must be made to avoid accidents.

Airline companies vary in their policies on the maximum allowable falcons that can travel in economy or business class. Airlines flying out the pricey birds of prey have shown how the transit needs of the animals could well be accommodated.

More Than a Traditional Sport

The role that certain animals play, both in reflecting national culture and heritage, and for humans’ activities — including research purposes — have gotten close attention through the years. In the case of the Saudi prince’s hawks that occupied 80 seats on a commercial flight, the incident cast attention on the little known (for most people in other lands) old tradition of falconry in the UAE.

Falconry is said to require tons of patience, skill plus the courage to tame, capture and train a falcon. Beyond being a sport, falconry has become an important part of Bedouin/Arab heritage, reason enough for UAE officials to collaborate with UNESCO to give falconry the status of a cultural heritage.

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