04 August 2015

Falcon Trapping in Saudi Arabia – Paper by Mohammed Shobrak

I was contacted by Mohammed Shobrak recently and he kindly sent me his very interesting paper on trapping of falcons in Saudi Arabia. Shobrak, M. (2015). Trapping of Saker Falcon Falco cherrug and Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus in Saudi Arabia: Implications for biodiversity conservation. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences 22; 491–502. The data below is taken from his paper.

The Saker and Peregrine are typically used by falconers in Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, and traditionally have been trapped for falconry during the autumn migration and released after the hunting season in the spring. Increasingly, instead of releasing birds trapped on migration, falcons are being retained in captivity by falconers. At the same time, there has been an increasing demand for juvenile falcons for falconry, with trappers extending their activities to include the breeding grounds, especially in central and northern Asia. Illegal trapping has been claimed as one of the main causes of decline of the Saker Falcon in Asiatic Russia (especially in the Altai-Sayan region), China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This activity, along with other threats such as electrocution by medium-voltage power-lines; unsustainable trapping/harvest along the migration routes, secondary poisoning, decreased prey availability and collision with man-made structures, all appear to have contributed to the decline of the species overall. For the Saker no satellite data are available, however, the recovery of four rings for nestlings ringed in Kazakhstan, and captured south of Jeddah along the Red Sea coast showed the importance of the areas along the coast for both species (Kenward et al., 2007, 2013). This probably showed that the areas along the coastal parts of the Saudi Red Sea could be considered as a narrow flyway, which channels into corridors, where falcons may encounter topographic bottlenecks. Therefore, the Red Sea coast is an important flyway for several species of water birds and passerine which falcons consume during their migration. The information available is, however, not conclusive, concerning the migration route falcon populations migrating over the Arabian Peninsula and more investigations are needed to determine the migration route over the Arabian Peninsula especially for the Saker Falcon. The threats to Saker and Peregrine are well established and are comprehensively covered in the Global Action Plan (GAP) currently being developed by the Saker Falcon Task Force (STF). Among the high priority threats addressed in this plan is trapping. To secure a favourable conservation status for the Saker, the GAP highlights the priority actions to be implemented by all range states. As highlighted in this paper, the key conservation action within Saudi Arabia is to promote sustainable trapping during the migration periods, especially in northern Saudi Arabia and along the Red Sea coast. Increasing the knowledge of the migration routes for both Saker and Peregrine, an effective system of monitoring the number of birds trapped within Saudi Arabia, reducing the number of birds trapped by promoting captive breeding stock and an increase in awareness raising activities with falcon trappers and falconers should all be part of a package of conservation measures implemented by the Saudi Arabian authorities. Implementing these actions within Saudi Arabia alongside the measures taken by other range states in accordance with the GAP should secure a favourable conservation for both the Saker and Peregrine, and importantly preserve the traditional Arabian culture of falconry.
Saker Falcon - Photograph taken by Phil Roberts