Young falconers are voting with their feet in Georgia, thanks to the success of a fledgling campaign managed by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) – and conservation is the undisputed winner.
The autumn migration of birds of prey from Eurasia to Africa is an awesome spectacle, and there are many well-known hotspots, but when it comes to the Caucasus, the so-called Batumi bottleneck in south-west Georgia trumps all of them. The raptor count in this glorious gateway goes on for many weeks, but all too often it has been the birds that have ended up on the losing side.
In a region renowned for its strong tradition of falconry, migrating raptors have to run the gauntlet of myriad trappers and hunters. Eurasian sparrowhawks, northern goshawks and saker falcons are a particularly popular target. Traditionally, the culture of trapping raptors for local use had minimal impact on their populations, but the recent escalation in capture for illegal international trade is a different story, with potentially dire consequences for some species.