The Russia’s first international centre for the reintroduction and conservation of rare species of birds of prey (Falconiformes) was established in Kamchatka. Currently, the Russian Falcon Centre “Kamchatka” is preparing to accept the first group of gyrfalcons (Falco rusticolus L), the premium falcons, as breeding stock.
“There is still a lot to be done. But we are ready to accept the first birds,” Shukhrat Razakov, Director General of the Centre, told EcoTourism Expert.
The white gyrfalcons are the most valuable and largest type of falcons. Unfortunately, their population in Kamchatka and Chukotka is declining due to large-scale poaching. In the late 1980s, a huge number of gyrfalcons were smuggled out of Russia.
“We began to study the history of these falcons, how they are smuggled out of the country, where they were taken to. We arrived in the United Arab Emirates, met with the crown prince, and talked about how we can stop poaching the falcons,” told Dmitry Kobylkin, the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Ecology, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection.
The idea of creating a network of centres for the reintroduction and conservation of falcon family birds was supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The “Kamchatka” Centre has become a pilot project. There are also plans to build falcon centres in Yamal, Altai, Kolyma and Sakhalin.
The “Kamchatka” Centre was established under the agreement with the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic (CDFEA). The co-investors were Zapsibgazprom company and the investment platform of the Roscongress Foundation, the RK-Investments Fund. The construction project design was presented in 2019 at the Eastern Economic Forum.
“We were very strongly supported by the former Minister of Nature Dmitry Kobylkin, Roscongress, and Anton Kobyakov, President’s adviser. We are moving forward. We have built it, done it. We hope that everything will work out,” Shukhrat Razakov said.
Victoria Abramchenko, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation said that more than 1.7 billion roubles were invested in the creation of the Сentre. According to her, the best international experience was used for the project, and it was implemented in close cooperation, including with the experts from the Arab countries. In addition, the best ornithologists of Russia were involved in the project.
The “Kamchatka” Centre is located in the Milkovsky District, its total area is up to 300 hectares. The Cenre houses a nursery for 200 pairs of falcons, aviaries for 1,000 young falcons, a tower for flying and a multifunctional ornithological centre.
The priority task of the “Kamchatka” Centre is the creation of an aviary population of birds and their training for participation in falconry competitions.
“This Centre will restore the white gyrfalcon’s population in Kamchatka. This bird is required for creating an ecosystem in Kamchatka and to popularize and develop the traditional type of hunting with the use of falcons,” Victoria Abramchenko said.
Falconry is recognized by UNESCO as a masterpiece of living intangible culture of mankind. Experienced falconers will train the birds at the Centre. Such specialists will also be trained here.
It is expected that the work of the Centre will also contribute to the development of multilateral cooperation with the Middle East countries where falconry is of particular importance and prestige.
“The veneration of falcons in the Arab world is associated with freedom, wealth and prosperity,” said Shukhrat Razakov.
Dmitry Kobylkin noted that gyrfalcons are very popular at international auctions. According to him, it is planned to hold auctions in the future in Russia with the participation of Arab sheikhs.
“The revival of falconry traditions in Russia will contribute to the development of multilateral cooperation with the countries of the Middle East and North Africa,” Victoria Abramchenko emphasized.
“There is great interest in these birds from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. We are implementing this project in close cooperation with the international community. We hope that the project will be the best one. According to our international colleagues, it can become the best centre today for the reproduction of falcons,” she noted.
“Falcon diplomacy with Arab countries is inevitable,” Shukhrat Razakov emphasized.
He said that the scientific cooperation will also develop. The Centre has already been visited by a German delegation.
“We will conduct researches. We cannot do without scientific studies. Now, we are working closely with the Research Institute of Ecology and Nature Management. They are very interested in the cooperation,” Shukhrat Razakov said.
In addition, the students of specialized institutes and universities will be able to come to the Centre for internships. “We need to train students at the Centre so that they can grow falcons and train them,” the Director of the “Kamchatka” Centre said.
Under the close supervision by our specialists, a full-fledged reproduction process of gyrfalcons will be recreated in the conditions as close to natural ones as possible.
Shukhrat Razakov also said that, if necessary, the Сentre will be able to contribute to the creation of nesting sites in the wild. He noted that for this, it would be necessary to study the number of wild falcons in Kamchatka.
“These birds live in hard-to-reach places. We need to study this first. We need to conduct expeditions,” he said.
“We will work closely with scientists. You can’t just release a bird into the wild. You need to prepare a bird for this for 2 to 4 months. This is a certain procedure,” the Director of the Centre emphasized.
“We know this technology and will help restore the population,” he said.
The Falcon Centre can also promote eco-tourism and give a boost to the entire region. Dmitry Kobylkin is of opinion that this initiative will contribute to the development of tourism and transport infrastructure.
According to the experts from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Russia has seen a sharp decline in the population of the falcon family birds in recent years. It occurs for many reasons, including the disturbance of falcon habitats by humans, a decrease in the food supply, and climate change.
The most serious threat to the big falcon populations in Russia is the growing poaching for the purpose of smuggling. Comprehensive measures are being taken to preserve and restore the number of falcons, including in cooperation with the countries that are our partner in the projects for the reintroduction of rare bird species.
The problem of bird protection is extremely urgent because of extinction of over 100 unique species over the past centuries, many species are now on the verge of extinction.
Public attention to the protection of rare species of birds is attracted in a variety of ways. For example, Moscow hosted a photo exhibition last year dedicated to the Red Data Book birds of the Arctic. The exposition concept was developed by the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia, Roszapovedtsentr (Federal Budgetary State Institution “Informational and Analytical Centre for Protected Areas Support”), and the Russian Environmental Chamber with the support of Norilsk Nickel company.
The photo exhibition coincided with the International Bird Day. On this day, ornithologists from all over the world arrange interesting lectures and excursions, talk about the life of birds, and their protection.
According to scientists, the number of birds in the Arctic makes up to 50% of the world’s coastal birds. According to various estimates, their diversity in these places is 150-290 species.