In order to preserve falconry it is important to get active; a first step is to prepare an educational program for schools and to go out in public to engage with people. Children have no prejudices and  are curious and open minded. As falconers we are aware that imprinting can be an irreversible form of learning;  we can use this knowledge. Falconers have many opportunities to volunteer in kindergardens and schools and to tell them about falconry and conservation of birds of prey. In Europe there are increasing numbers of falconry shows and while this does popularise birds of prey, it has little in common with “real” falconry, which is actually hunting. If we are honest, it is the "show" falconry that is doing the bulk of the education, not the “hunting falconers”. Most people cannot resist the fascination of birds of prey and typically participants after a show are left feeling very excited about what they have just seen. We must be aware that, if we are not careful, falconry will become associated only with bird of prey shows in the eyes of the public. Hunting game with hawks and falcons is omitted from most these presentations. This is creating a problem.

It is much harder to teach an adult who has no understanding of the interplays of nature and it is also more difficult when children have not been exposed to this concept at an early age: the younger the child, the easier it is for them to accept that hunting is a part of the natural cycle. By explaining this concept in simple termswe can help them understand that falconers use a natural process in order to catch animals and eat them, a foundation for understanding the Circle of Life; death is a part of life, just like birth is. 

What cannot be stressed enough is the importance of introducing to children the concept of Sustainable Use as being the most effective way of conserving wildlife. The perceptional problems hunters have experienced over the past  fifty years largely originated from the active promotion of seemingly plausible sound-bites by extreme animal rightists who have been insisting on totally non-consumptive policies and who, as a result, are contributing to the failure of their own conservation measures.

IAF Involvement in Education Projects

How can IAF assist with these? IAF is planning a survey in which all Member Organizations are asked to provide us with information about the situation in their country. Templates and suggestions are appreciated and IAF will promote the concept on its website, bringing together the collected data. We have translated the book which was kindly provided by the Falconry Museum in Valkenswaard and will put it as a download on the website. We can offer advice on visits to kindergartens and schools using information gleaned from those national clubs who are already successful. We are trying to make the falconry community sensitive about this issue and many national delegates are already seeking dialogue with show falconers, encouraging them to make the public aware of the differences between hunting and shows, because often they are hunting falconers as well as being show presenters.

Animal welfare and nature conservation organizations are calling for a ban of falconry in many different countries and this didn´t happen yesterday. Why should we not formulate our concerns and at least try to discuss these issues and promote falconry at a higher political level, engaging in dialogues outside of the hunters' associations? We should act now and not wait for a miraculous change; we want to keep open the possibility for our children and any other young falconers to experience hunting and falconry during their lives. We are very sure we can achieve a lot.

(Notes from Doha, Jan. 2014, by Elisabeth Leix of IAF's WWG)

 « Club Adriaan Mollen » in the Netherlands is in the process of finalising the Information Falconry leaflet for primary schools. This project was started in 2013 for the IAF Council Meetings in Valkenswaard. Last week it was presented to about 330 primary school children. The Valkenswaard Falconry Museum was the leader in this kind of work. It is still avaible in Dutch and can be translated into other laguages on request. 

Sean Hayes from the US visits a school in Thaba N’chu in the Free State Province as part of the IAF Meetings hosted by the South African Falconers' Association. The Annual Council of Delegates Meeting of the IAF always includes such visits to local schools to introduce young people to falconry and perhaps sow seeds of the passion that influences all our lives as falconers.

Each year, on 16 Nov, falconers worldwide (led by IAF), work with a common theme of promoting falconry. The first World Falconry Day took place in 2013, 3rd anniversary of UNESCO recognition of falconry. Many IAF organizations included a schools programme in their events, like in Kelibia, Tunisia with la Société du Sauvegarde du Patrimoine Culturel des Oiseaux Rapaces.

The U.S approach to Education and Falconry

Many of the 3800 licensed falconers in the USA present education programs. Falconers in the US do not do “show falconry”. As society  becomes more removed from nature, bringing live birds into the classroom sends a clear message that we need to care.  It fosters respect for nature and encourages community involvement. Programs with information based on biology, conservation, environmental concerns like DDT, the food chain, and field identification, are more acceptable than those based on falconry alone. “No-one can do everything, but each person can do something.”

An Arab Approach

In Qatar, Algannas, the national falconry and hunting society holds annual "Almazap" Youth Camps which are part of an adventure, educational and cultural values program to encourage young people in falconry and to practice traditional values in a desert setting, learning about falconry and the natural environment away from modern distractions.

A Central European Approach

In the Czech Rep. falconry lessons are held in specialized forestry schools. These are lead by teachers with a falconry concession and thus members of the Czech Falconry Club. The lessons cover history, basic skills, zoology, equipment, the law, hunting and special lectures held by skilled and often famous falconers. One of the most famous school teaching the falconry is Mendel University of Agriculture and Forestry Brno, which also shows the art of falconry to the wider public.

Other Education Projects around the World

Extensive educational resources have been prepared by the Middle East Falcon Research Group to explain why artificial nests have been erected on the Mongolian Steppe. Schools visits and teaching materials play an important part in this.Many falconers, biologists, photographers and teachers have advised and helped create the resources which can be downloaded here or contact: nicola@falcons.co.uk

The International Fund for Houbara Conservation has a particularly impressive education project, having successfully placed the houbara on the schools curriculum in Abu Dhabi.The IFHC Head of Communications and Public Relations, Delphine Delire, made a presentation at the IAF Meeting in Doha, January 2014. The houbara is the traditional quarry of the Bedouin and holds an important place in the hearts of all Arab falconers.IFHC publishes an eNewsletter.