Great Strides to Resettle Saker Falcons in the Balkans
Four breeding pairs to join Mohammed bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Fund programme
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – 8 November 2020: The Mohammed bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Fund (MPZRCF), in partnership with the Balkan Green Belt organization and Bulgarian Ministry of Environment, welcomed four new pairs of Saker Falcons to the Resettlement Project in Bulgaria, a collaboration to preserve essential elements of biological diversity, and restore sustainable numbers of the distinctive species in the southern Balkans.
The falcons have been housed in breeding facilities to support the long-term goals of the project to restore the Saker Falcon in the wild. The unique birds were received from the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
The birds will remain in separate cages, in line with established protocols to assimilate them into their new environment as soon as possible. The objective is to produce 20 chicks over the coming season and to release them into the wild by the end of spring 2021 to rebalance the wild populations in the area. Last season, the Balkan Green Belt organisation witnessed the hatching of five Saker Falcons. The project is financed by MBZRCF and supported by Armeec Insurance, one of Bulgaria’s largest insurance companies.
This project follows previous research efforts by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi between 2012 and 2014, which included an experimental study on 14 birds that were released and tracked in Romania, Libya, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia and Serbia. Only two returned to the site.
The agency also released and monitored 67 captive bred Saker Falcons in the same region between 2015 and 2018. The first breeding was recorded in 2018, between two pairs of birds, and a nest was discovered for the first time in 20 years. The agency also released and tracked several breeding falcons for 14 months.
Commenting on this momentous occasion, Majid Al Mansouri, Managing Director of the MBZRCF, said: “Falconry is an important part of the culture in this region, which is why the resettlement project for the Saker Falcons in Bulgaria is vital and it is an honour to collaborate with the Green Belt Organization and Bulgarian Ministry of Environment to realise this goal.
“Through this project, we will release 100 Saker Falcons in low agricultural areas of Bulgaria over the next five years. These falcons will be monitored to assess the success of the plan to reinforce the wild populations in the area.”
The Saker Falcons migrate from the Balkans, to the Central European region and into western Kazakhstan and on to North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The breeding Saker Falcons in the southern Balkans region almost became extinct in the late 20th century, with the last breeding recorded in the region in 1998. Today, the success of the breeding project calls for optimism about the future and the return of the Saker Falcon in sustainable numbers to Balkan wildlife.
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