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Europe and Central Asia

Champions of the Flyway 2014 race helps mobilise falconers to save migratory raptors in Georgia

By Communications, 6 Jan 2015

On 1st April 2014, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), BirdLife Partner in this Israel, gave its Georgian homologue a good news: the Society for Nature Protection in Georgia (SABUKO) would be the first recipient of the 30,000$ (24,157 euros) raised during the Champions of the Flyway race organised in Eilat, Israel, 1 - 2 April 2014. Was it an April Fools’ Day prank? Fortunately not!

The Champions of the Flyway race, an annual event launched in 2014 and which will celebrate its second edition on the 25 of March this year, aims to raise funds to tackle the illegal killing of birds in Europe. The funds gathered by sponsors and participants help support every year a different BirdLife Partner’s work on illegal killing, and last year SABUKO was the lucky one.

The Georgian organisation decided to allocate the money to the protection of migratory raptors in the Batumi Bottleneck, an area located in south-west Georgia known for its great importance for migratory birds. Yearly, more than one million migrating raptors of up to 35 species pass through the area, which makes it one of the greatest autumn bottleneck for migrating birds of prey in Eurasia. Sadly, experts have witnessed how around 10,000 birds of prey fall victim to illegal shooting in the region each autumn, unwittingly presenting themselves as easy targets.

SABUKO, aware of the situation, decided to use their new income in a very special way:  they decided to start a fruitful collaboration, on-the-ground, with falconers and local hunters where they would engage them as ‘ambassadors for conservation’. Some ambassadors have already received trainings to learn how to ring and release raptors; all the necessary ringing equipment and professional trainers being provided by SABUKO to help them ring securely and independently. The falconers were educated on how to recognise the different species they can potentially catch, how to age and sex the birds and how to handle the birds properly. Positively, they proved to be cooperative and enthusiastic learners!

The second aspect of the project included setting up various awareness-raising activities in the villages of the area and engaging schoolchildren and other members of the general public into the importance of the migrations of raptors and their enormous vulnerability.

SABUKO and the whole BirdLife community applaud the falconers and the local hunters for their willingness to cooperate and change their attitude towards birds.  We hope that their long lasting involvement with the project will help reduce the amount of illegally killed birds across Batumi Bottleneck.