Keeping the UAE’s falcons flying
Meet the vets who keep UAE’s falcons safe and soaring
They are the elegant birds of prey deeply rooted in this country’s traditions.
But keeping their wings flapping is a painstaking and complex task - as the veterinary surgeons of Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital know all too well.
A single feather break can leave the birds completely off-balance.
The clinic treats between 15 and 25 falcons per day, rising to more than 100 during the September to March hunting season.
R Ranjith, a medical technician at the hospital, said despite all of the advances in technology that are utilised, a broken wing is still repaired with simple tools, including a splint and spare feathers.
He took 7DAYS through a typical procedure: “During the molting season every year, falcons shed their feathers.
“We collect all these fallen feathers of different shapes and sizes to keep them as spare parts to repair broken or injured feathers on both wings.
“If you break a single feather it affects the flight, balance and hunting abilities of the falcon so it is very important we always have the perfect match.”
He continued: “If it the feather is broken from the tip, we usually look for the exact same feather with a specific cut, shape and size and use a needle and super glue to just attach the broken part instead of replacing the entire feather. This includes attaching the spare part of the feather to the spleen so it is strong.
“Also, different falcons have feather shafts of differ- ent diameters, this also needs to perfectly match with the other feathers.
“There are at least 16 different kinds of feathers that are further classified into shapes and sizes.”
With falconry being one of the most common and prestigious hobby in the country and the national bird of the UAE, giving them the best treatment possible is necessary, according to Gregely Beltran, medical administrator at the hospital (pictured right, at the falcon’s feeding time).
She said: “During the hunting season falcons can get really aggressive.
“This is when the inflow of patients increases to an average of 70-80 per day, sometimes crossing 100 too.
“The procedures can range from routine check-up, fractures to minor or major surgery.” Complete with an examination room, operation room and intensive care
units, the hos- pital also has fully air-conditioned wards to host 100-250 falcons at the same time in their own separate rooms.
If their owners need them to be looked after, a tour guide explains, the hospital has its own “seven star hotel” for falcons, where the birds can stay - for Dhs35 per day.
The hospital gives 90-minute guided tours to the public from Sunday to Thursday.
FEEDING TIME: Staff member Gregely Beltran with a falcon’s lunch