His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Follows the Footsteps of the late Sheikh Zayed in Caring for Hunting, Equestrian and Nature Protection



29 th July, Abu Dhabi :-Following the path and footsteps of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the late founder of the UAE, one of the world's foremost naturalists and the “First Man of the Environment,” His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces continues his father’s beliefs of the importance of hunting and equestrian sports. His Highness also believes in the consolidation of the concepts of heritage and originality of the UAE, and passing on the legacy of parents and grandparents to future generations. Similarly, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed’s interest is based on the attention given by the late Sheikh Zayed to the sport of falconry and equestrian and how his father strove to maintain the components of the diverse and rich local environment as an important national legacy.

The sport of hunting and equestrian was an important part of the biography of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed as he grew up in an environment full of originality, filled with the tradition of falconry and the morals of the men of the desert, which formed a large part of his history with falconry. All this has been clearly reflected in his outstanding efforts to preserve the cultural heritage and save the authentic traditions of the United Arab Emirates.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed adopted the principles of sustainable hunting and encouraged the use of bred falcons in captivity as an alternative to wild falcons. By 2002, the falconers of the UAE were 90% dependent on falcons in captivity, making the UAE the first Arab country to rely on the use of captive falcons in the sport of falconry.

The vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in saving nature comes from the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed who worked to promote environmental sustainability and biodiversity to achieve the vision of the UAE in 2021 in conserving the environment and its precious resources as well as the preservation of wildlife. A proof of this vision is the decision of His Highness in 2008 to establish the Mohammed Bin Zayed Conservation Fund for organisms to contribute to species protection, biodiversity and bio-balance conservation. The aim of the Fund was to halt the extinction of species and regain the eco- balance, and to provide money and logistical assistance to scientists, researchers and specialists, and to establish a mechanism for international communication and cooperation with interested parties, whether government, international organizations, civil society organizations or individual institutions concerned. This is in addition to supporting efforts to protect species and reward those working in this academic field.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), has made significant efforts to preserve the Houbara, following Sheikh Zayed's directives which began in the 1970s. At the time Abu Dhabi witnessed in late 1976 a conference on Falconry and the Preservation of Nature and Sheikh Zayed launched a program to raise the Asian houbara in captivity at Al Ain Zoo in 1977.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed’s comprehensive vision and strategic approach to establishing IFHC in 2006 has led to the conservation and sustainable long-term preservation of the houbara in their natural habitat. As a result there is the sustainability of the bird while ensuring the continuity of the falconry tradition which is a part of the indigenous Arabic culture. Under IFHC there are many institutions which include: the National Avian Research Centre - Sweihan, United Arab Emirates, Emirates Centre for Wildlife Propagation - Kingdom of Morocco, the Sheikh Khalifa Center Houbara Breeding Centre – Kazakhstan and the Shaikh Khalifa Houbara Breeding Center- Saih Al Salam, United Arab Emirates.

The Houbara Breeding Program has succeeded in producing more than 420,000 houbara and setting free of more than 300,000 birds in natural habitats, in parallel with falconry protection efforts. More than 58,000 birds have been supplied to falconers over the past 15 years to eradicate the illegal smuggling of houbara. Falconry depends on houbara raised in captivity and contributes in reducing the pressure on wild houbara populations and reducing the health risks of bird smuggling and as a result today IFHC is an international leader in species conservation.

Thanks to the efforts of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Honorary President of the International Association of Falconry and Conservation of Birds (IAF) in the field of heritage protection and his concern for the ecological balance and interest in hunting and equestrian sport, the UAE has established a prominent position in this field. Most notably:

  • - Success of the United Arab Emirates in its efforts to register falconry in UNESCO. In 2010, the falconry received universal recognition as a Human Cultural Heritage by fulfilling all international conditions and standards as an original and distinctive heritage and included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  • UAE has been selected as the head of the Western Indian “Marine Turtle Community,” which is a part of
    the International Union for Conservation of Nature, in recognition of its role in the protection of
    threatened species of sea turtles.
  • The UAE won the presidency of the Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey (IAF).
  • Hosting the activities of the sixth session of the World Ocean Summit, held for the first time in the Middle
    East in its largest session since its inception.
  • Organizing and hosting four editions of the International Festival of Falconry which was attended by more than 700 researchers and falconers representing 90 countries, in the presence of international organizations concerned with falconry, environment and heritage conservation.
  • Organizing Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition annually for 16 years, becoming
    the largest exhibition of hunting and equestrian and heritage conservation.
  • Launching the Falconry Archive Project in the Middle East to document and preserve the falconry heritage
    in the Middle East and revive the interest of ancient historical works on Arab falconry, to serve as an
    integrated library of the unique heritage of documents and scientific references to falconry history
    available to all specialists and those interested in falconry.
  • The success of the Sheikh Zayed Falcons Program in the release of more than 1900 Falcons and Shaheen as part of its program to re-release falcons in the wild in their natural habitat. The program also has produced more than 3,500 falcons in captivity to relieve pressure on wild falcons.
  • -The opening of the Mohammed bin Zayed Falconry and Desert Physiognomy School, the first of its kind in
    the world, which was established in order to instill the right principles for Arab falconry in the youth. It was
    also launched to introduce the unique characteristics of Arab falcons in the UAE, the Arabian Peninsula and
    the Arab world at the national and international levels and presenting Arabic traditions in a fun way that
    makes it easier for our children to learn and love this heritage
  • The UAE hosted the world's first Houbara Conservation Conference, bringing together ministers and
    officials representing 17 countries within the scope of the houbara spread from Morocco to Mongolia to
    discuss ways in which cooperation can be maintained to preserve these species across their range.
  • Launching of the Mohammed bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Fund with an initial funding of US $ 20 million, to carry out conservation projects in cooperation with many international and national partners. The Fund signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia on 27 February 2019 to solve the problem of increasing death cases due to electrocution in Mongolia's electrical distribution network infrastructure. The Fund will lead to the modernization of electricity distribution networks through direct financing and the provision of equipment for qualified companies to carry out its work.

In line with this approach, the UAE is preparing to launch the 17th edition of the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (ADIHEX) 2019 on August 27th-31st under the theme "Together to Consolidate Sustainable Hunting Initiatives,” under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Emirates Falconers Club. The exhibition has become a festival of cultural heritage and a prominent station on the map of international exhibitions specialized in this field because of its activities that consolidate the concepts of sustainable hunting and supports and encourages the strategy of preserving the heritage and traditions and values inherent in the UAE.

The last edition of the exhibition was honored with a visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. During the visit, His Highness reviewed the participation of a number of national and foreign stands and companies that show the latest technologies, supplies and methods used in hunting and equestrian. He also viewed the rare photos of falconry and equestrian sports. During his tour of the exhibition stands, His Highness listened to the participants and exhibitors who expressed the importance of this international heritage and cultural forum, which attracts thousands of visitors from hunting and equestrian enthusiasts in the region and the world. His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed expressed his pleasure at visiting the exhibition, stressing that it reflects an important aspect of the heritage and originality of the UAE and the Arab and the heritage of the parents and grandparents. He also expressed that the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was concerned with the sport of falconry and equestrian and the preservation and development of the local environment and as an important national heritage.