The Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) is a large and spectacular bird of prey. Due to its prowess as a hunter, it has been prized by humans for centuries, particularly by falconers in the Gulf Region. Over recent decades wild populations of the Saker Falcon have declined dramatically. So much so that at the 10th Conference of Parties (COP10) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), held in November 2011 in Bergen, Norway, the species was uplisted to Appendix I of the Convention, and a dedicated Saker Falcon Task Force (STF) was established under the auspices of the Raptors MoU (see CMS Resolution 10.28).
The mission of the STF was to bring together Range States, Partners and interested parties, to develop a coordinated Global Action Plan, including a management and monitoring system, to conserve the Saker Falcon. The 1st Meeting of the STF was held in March 2012 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, at which a detailed Work Plan for 2012-14 was developed. The 2nd Meeting of the STF was held in September 2013 in Abu Dhabi.
The STF comprises over 40 specialists, respresenting more than 20 countries. During development of the action plan, STF operated by means of four Working Groups considering the following topics: International Policies and Legislation; Knowledge Gaps; Sustainable Use; and, Fieldwork. The Working Groups were focused to prepare background material to inform the 1st Draft of the Saker Falcon Global Action Plan (SakerGAP) in advance of a Stakeholders’ Action Planning Workshop, held in Abu Dhabi in September 2013. The 2nd Draft was launched for public consultation in March 2014; and the Final Draft was endorsed by the CMS Scientific Countil at their meeting in July 2014. The SakerGAP was unanimously adopted at CMS COP11 in November 2014 in Quito, Ecuador. The Coordinating Unit of the Raptors MoU wishes to acknowledge the funding and support received for the STF from the Parties at CMS COP10, the European Union, the Saudi Wildlife Authority, the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi on behalf of the Government of the United Arab Emirates, and from the CITES Secretariat.
The Task Force offers a unique opportunity to harness the skills and experience of all the key stakeholders to work towards the shared goal of ensuring the long-term conservation of the species’ wild populations, whilst at the same time developing ways to enable sustainable use of Sakers for traditional falconry purposes. CMS Resolution 11.18 (subsequently revised slightly at CMS COP12) recognises that the work of the STF has been a productive partnership employing a transparent consensus-building approach, involving a wide range of parties; and extends the Task Force remit to oversee SakerGAP implementation. CMS Resolution 11.18 (Rev.COP12) instructs the STF to (a) actively promote implementation of the SakerGAP, including by continuing to facilitate engagement, communication, cooperation and collaboration between the stakeholders; (b) further develop, refine and implement an adaptive management and monitoring framework to improve the present conservation status of the Saker Falcon through, inter alia, regulated and sustainable use; and to (c) keep under review the option to down-list the species.