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 same 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 a traditional way of life in many countries," said Frank Bond.

In the 13th century Marco Polo at the court of Khublai Khan (a grandson of Ghengis), described an
assembly of 10,000 falconers. To celebrate this exceptional achievement 10,000 falconers from
around the world are expected to assemble again, this time in Abu Dhabi in December 2011. See
www.falconryfestival.com .