Specialist Meeting on the Conservation of the Saker Falcon

5-7 April, 2009 in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, was held the meeting to discuss the status and conservation of the Saker Falcon.

The meeting was hosted by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EAD and International Wildlife Consultants Ltd., IWC (Great Britain).

The agenda included three main sections of issues. The first section reviewed current knowledge of the Saker range and numbers. The second considered problems of CITES, and the third raised problems of captive breeding of the bird in countries of Europe and GCC (the Gulf Cooperation Council).

Reports from all Saker Range Countries were presented. From Ukraine reported Vitaly Vetrov and Yury Milobog, members of the Ukrainian Birds of Prey Research Centre. Their presentation told about distribution and numbers of this raptor in Ukraine and Moldova. Basing on results of researches from other European countries it has been concluded that Ukraine holds the biggest population of the Saker in European part of the range. Nowadays the species numbers in Ukraine are estimated up to 270-310 breeding pairs. Majority of the population concentrates in the steppe zone and nests on poles of power lines.

Among reports of other participants we would like to pay attention to the following ones.
The presentation of author’s group (Istvan Balazc, Janos Bagyura, Hans-Martin Berg, David Horal, Andras Kovacs) on the Saker population in Central Europe (Germany, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro). By now in these countries it is recorded up to 299-338 breeding pairs, of them 180-200 breed in Hungary. It is nice to see an increasing trend in numbers. The report by Jevgeny Shergalin (IWC, Great Britain) analyzed the species population in Central Asia. Over the last eight years numbers of this falcon were greatly reduced, and suggested reasons are illegal trade, loss of habitats and electrocution. Elvira Nikolenko (Siberian Environmental Centre, Russia) in her presentation reviewed current status of Russian population and habitat fidelity, using massive data of field researches.
Participants of the meeting were also interested in the report by Matyas Prommer (MME/BirdLife, Hungary) telling about first results of the satellite tracking of Sakers in Central Europe. As it became evident, birds breeding in Hungary visit not only Ukraine during their movements and migrations but also Belarus and Russia.
A number of presentations touched problems of the Saker conservation. The report by Alexey Vaisman (TRAFFIC, Europe-Russia) analyzed scale of trapping and illegal trade in Russia. Over the last decade the volume of illegal trade has increased. According to author’s estimation in Altai-Sayany region about 1000 Sakers are trapped annually! It was mentioned that one of the routes of illegal transportation lies through Ukraine as we had written earlier at our website. Hungarian colleagues in their report analyzed the Saker mortality rate from electrocution on power lines. According to their estimation, it causes deaths of 3-5% Hungarian population.

In general, we would like to note rather high level of study and conservation of the Saker in Hungary. They have a large-scale population monitoring programme, and place a large quantity of artificial nests (as a result, most nests on power lines are located on these artificial nest sites), carry out activities to increase safety of power lines for preventing electrocution of birds.
The second and third sections of issues were a follow-up of the 9th Meeting of Parties of UNEP’s Convention of Migratory Species (CMS), held in Rome in 2008, where a proposal to upgrade the species to Appendix 1 of the Convention had been deferred till all aspects of Saker conservation is discussed in a separate meeting of the Saker Range States and other key stakeholders.
During a three-day meeting in Abu-Dhabi the participants reviewed status of the Saker population in Europe, Russia, Central Asia, Mongolia and China. Information presented in the reports concerned practical aspects of conservation and captive breeding, there was discussed an actual scale of illegal trade and legal use of birds in Arabian falconry.

The delegates also visited Falcon Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

Conclusions and recommendations of the meeting are presented below.

Yury Milobog, Vitaly Vetrov

Conclusions and Recommendations:

Participants at the meeting agreed that there was a shared common goal in that the conservation of the Saker Falcon is a high priority. The meeting recognises that there are major gaps in our knowledge on the status of the Saker Falcon and the threats faced by the species.

1. Co-operation between all stakeholders in the Saker range states is required to improve the conservation status of the species, including undertaking conservation activities under the umbrella of the CMS Birds of Prey MoU and further to encourage all Saker range states to join this MoU.

2. The meeting has supported the Saudi Arabian initiative to develop a regional Action Plan together with BirdLife Middle East involving end users in the GCC region.

3. BirdLife is to undertake a review of the IUCN status of the Saker via public forum in autumn 2009 and we encourage all interested parties to participate in this process.

4. The meeting recognises the need to:
– educate and inform end-users about the conservation issues of using wild-sourced Sakers;
– quantify the number of falconers and the number and types of falcons used in the region;
– and to transmit this information to relevant bodies.
And this could be achieved by encouraging the establishment of falconry associations in Arab falconry nations.

5. The way MEA’s are applied should reflect the realities of the needs for Saker conservation (including the role of legal sustainable use and trade), together with the social, cultural and economic needs of the parties. In turn, MEA obligations should be respected by all parties.

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