The International Heritage Conservancy is a recognized private 501(c)3 organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the worldwide intangible cultural heritage of the art of falconry, related historical and cultural activities, and the international conservation of birds of prey.
In order to assist in maintaining a balanced biodiversity for species survival in important habitat areas, the Conservancy supports and promotes the identification, study, and protection of the unique habitats and ecological zones both locally and throughout the world that have been identified as critical breeding grounds, migration routes and destinations for a variety of migrant species.
United Nations declare ancient hunting as global cultural heritage
“FALCONRY is a Living Human Heritage”
Today in Nairobi, Kenya, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage added Falconry, a traditional hunting method, to its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Since before the time of the pyramids, over 4000 years, falconry as a hunting method has retained an unbroken thread of tradition. Fathers have been passing down skills to their children for nearly 200 generations in a chain of intangible heritage, bringing this art to us, the 21st century.
Today's modern lifestyle and rapid urbanisation have restricted opportunities to practise falconry. This has been leading to a dangerous decline in many countries. Migration from countryside to towns is a major threat to rural-based traditions and UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage lists ensure signatory governments protect traditions such as: traditional skills, knowledge and rituals, handicrafts, song, dance, art and poetry or practices related to nature. "Traditional Falconry is exceptional in that it fulfils all of these," said Frank Bond, President of the International Association for Falconry.
This is the largest ever nomination in the history of the UNESCO convention and was presented by eleven nations: Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Korea, Mongolia, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage took the lead in co-ordinating this massive submission and UNESCO officials wrote during the inscription process that "…this is an outstanding example of cooperation between nations".
From its ancient beginnings in the Middle East falconry is now practised on all continents and has given the entire world so much. Bond pointed out, "There are a thousand falconry words in common language, some common to many languages. For example: even the universal term 'gentleman' is derived from falconry vernacular implying a man who could fly a female peregrine, the 'falcon gentle'; falconers gave the world the first scientific book on nature 'De arte venandi cum avibus'; wars have even been avoided and stopped by diplomatic gifts of falcons." Mme. Veronique Blontrock from Belgium noted that: "In Belgium today children use a book on falconry to learn to read Flemish." Dr. Bohumil Straka of the Czech Republic said: "Flights out of major airports are protected by falconers who prevent bird strikes and save human lives.
The UNESCO submission stated "Falconry is one of the oldest relationships between man and bird, dating back more than 4000 years. Falconry is a traditional activity using trained birds of prey to take quarry in its natural state and habitat. It is a natural activity because the falcon and her prey have evolved together over millions of years; their interaction is an age-old drama. The falcon is adapted to hunt the prey, and the prey has evolved many ways to escape from the falcon. This leads to a fascinating insight into the way nature works and poses an intellectual challenge to the falconer in his understanding of behaviour. His task is to bring the actors together on nature’s stage. To do this the falconer must develop a strong relationship and synergy with his bird."
Falconry is considered a low-impact activity; falconers understand that their hawks and quarry species must be preserved and have been practicing ‘sustainable use’ for centuries. His late Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan said, “It is not what you catch that is important; it is what you leave behind”. Professor Tom Cade of the Peregrine Fund pointed out: "Falconers have been instrumental in the worldwide recovery of the endangered peregrine falcon and are involved in many conservation projects."
Falconers share universal principles. The methods of training and caring for birds, the equipment used and the bonding between man and the bird are found throughout the world. It is these common shared traditions and knowledge that make falconry universal and keep it alive, even though these traditions may differ from country to country. "This recognition by UNESCO means a great deal to the preservation of our traditional way of life,"
In the 13th century Marco Polo described an assembly of 10,000 falconers at the court of Khublai Khan (a grandson of Ghengis). To celebrate this exceptional achievement 10,000 falconers from around the world are assembling again. See www.falconryfestival.com