United Nations Declare Ancient Hunting As Global Cultural Heritage: “Falconry is a Living Human Heritage” 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 urbanization have restricted opportunities to practice 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-coordinating 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 practiced 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 behavior. 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 is wonderful recognition of the value Art of Falconry as part of the human Cultural Heritage. This recognition is no less important to us here in South Africa where we share our heritages in the spirit of our Rainbow Nation.” – Adrian Lombard, Chairman of the South African Falconry Association. In the 13th century Marco Polo described an assembly of 10,000 falconers at the court of Kublai Khan (a grandson of Genghis). 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 International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey: President - Frank Bond (US): firstname.lastname@example.org; Vice-president for Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania - Dr. Bohumil Straka (Czech Republic): email@example.com; Public Relations - Gary Timbrell (Ireland): firstname.lastname@example.org . Telephone +353 87 133 0922 South African Falconry Association, Adrian Lombard email@example.com; www.safalconry.org.za Editor’s Note: the symbiosis between falcons and falconers is not one-sided; every day falconers around the world are contributing to raptor conservation. In one of the great conservation stories of our times, falconers have succeeded in an unprecedented, global effort to save the Peregrine Falcon from extinction. The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) jointly with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in cooperation with the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey (IAF) and the Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation of the European Union (FACE) told the story of this success in Nagoya/Japan at the Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity during the CIC Markhor Award Ceremony.