For the birds

Israeli singers scolded for posing with endangered falcons in UAE

Bird expert tells singers’ managers that precious few falcons are left in the wild, with as many as 8,400 trapped each year to be trained for sport

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Israeli singer Omer Adam poses for a photo with a falcon in the United Arab Emirates (Instagram photo)
Israeli singer Omer Adam poses for a photo with a falcon in the United Arab Emirates (Instagram photo)

Leading singers Omer Adam and Aviv Geffen got caught in the cross-feathers of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel on Tuesday after posing for photographs with falcons while in the United Arab Emirates.

The environmental organization contacted the singers’ managers to explain that falcons are in serious threat of extinction worldwide and suffer acute distress when caught and trained to hunt.

Anything between 6,825 and 8,400 falcons are taken from the wild annually for training, explained Dan Alon, who heads the organization’s ornithological activities. He said that only 12,200 to 29,800 individuals are estimated to still exist in their natural state.

“Even though you didn’t know all this before this picture was taken, it was uploaded to the web and received great exposure,” he went on, in letters to the manager of each artist.

Israeli singer Aviv Geffen at the EMI, the Israel Artists Association, lifetime achievement awards ceremony, held in Petah Tikva on February 17, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“As the largest nature conservation organization in Israel, it is important for us to point out phenomena that should not exist in 2020.”

Alon said he hoped future Israeli visitors to the Emirates would avoid any contact with tamed falcons.

Across the Arabian peninsula, falconry is a long-standing tradition, with top birds costing tens of thousands of dollars.

In the UAE, the prizes for the President’s Cup falconry race are worth millions of dollars.

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