Falcons Get Their Own Passports in the United Arab Emirates

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In the United Arab Emirates, even birds need documentation to fly. The country’s falcons are issued special passports of their own to combat smuggling. The birds can sell for as much as $1 million each, making their trade especially attractive to smugglers.  

A falcon passport, issued by the Ministry of Environment and Water, is valid for three years and costs about $130. An ID number on the passport corresponds to one on the leg ring the falcons are required to wear. Border control officials are required to validate the falcon’s international movements just like they would any other passenger, verifying and stamping the passports. 

You can see one in the first few seconds of the video below:

Between when the passport program started in 2002 and 2013, the government issued more than 28,000 falcon passports. The falcons typically fly first class on commercial airlines; Lufthansa even has a custom-designed “falcon tray” for the purpose. 

Falconry has a long history in the Middle East, with the first documented evidence of hunting with birds of prey in Iran dating back to 8000 BCE. According to the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey, up to 50 percent of the world’s falconers today are located in the Middle East, and many travel across borders for hunting and competitions.

[h/t: Atlas Obscura]