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Falconing

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They are regal creatures. And in this small unassuming veterinary hospital, falcons receive royal treatment, because they belong to Sheik Mohammed, ruler of Dubai. The royal falconers bring them here for personalized medical attention from veterinarian Peter McKinney. They are really special birds, and this is the sort of bird that they used to catch in the old days when they were coming migrating across the country. The old Bedouin would trap them, they would use them for 4 or 5 months during the winter to catch birds, and then they would release them again. Like any vet, McKinney's challenge is to figure out What's wrong with his patients, who can't tell him exactly what hurts. The goal is to keep the royal falcons in perfect condition. They are trained for falconry, for hunting prey. It's a centuries-old tradition in the Arabian Gulf, and an important part of the cultural heritage. Today falcony is a sport, not a necessity. And part of the challenge is the spirit of the falcons themselves. They are not the easiest birds to tame, and falconers spend months each year training their birds to hunt in the wild. This work is in our blood. This hobby is in our blood. Not anyone can carry a bird and make it fly. It's something inherited. When we were young, we watched our fathers with the birds, and we learned from them. These birds are eventually released into the wild. So radio transmitters are attached to help researchers track them. These houbara bustards are raised in captivity to preserve wild populations. They fly very well. They give a very sporting flight for the falcon, and it's the traditional quarry for centuries and centuries. They represent heritage, if you like, of the Arabian falconer. And they have a characteristic jinking and dodging away from the falcon. So they offer a very sporting flight. After hundreds of years, the thrill of pursuit, and the majesty of these birds still keep falconry alive.

Video Details

Duration: 2 minutes and 29 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: National Geographic
Director: National Geographic
Views: 233
Posted by: greenbo on Mar 29, 2010

The Ancient Royal Sport of Dubai

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