Keep­ing the UAE’s fal­cons fly­ing

Meet the vets who keep UAE’s fal­cons safe and soar­ing

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Ma­hak Man­nan @Ma­hakLFC ma­

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

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