Saudi prince bought tickets for 80 falcons, the Telegraph reports:
Posted to Reddit, a photo of the rather bizarre occurrence shows dozens of the birds, each in its own seat in the central rows of the aircraft. Men in traditional Saudi headdresses occupy any seat not taken by a bird.
â€œMy captain friend sent me this photo. Saudi prince bought ticket for his 80 hawks,â€ the user wrote. It is not clear which airline the hawks are flying with.
While this might seem unfathomable, it is not entirely unheard of when flying to or from the Middle East, where falconry is a popular pastime of the wealthy.
Indeed airlines such as Qatar Airways, Etihad and Emirates each allow falcons – of which hawks are close relations – in the cabin.
Qatar allows a maximum of six birds, but says they are welcome in the cabin. A note on Etihadâ€™s website says: â€œWe accept the carriage of falcons in the main aircraft cabin provided that all the necessary documents have been obtained.â€
Emirates says: â€œAnimals are not permitted in the cabin of Emirates flights, with the exception of falcons between Dubai and certain destinations in Pakistan, and Guide Dogs for the Blind.â€
Lufthansa, the German airline, also made it clear in 2014 it welcomed the birds of prey in the cabin, installing a â€œFalcon Masterâ€ tray for â€œmaximum hygienic protection of the cabin walls, seats and carpets from soiling by the birdsâ€.
IAG, the owner of British Airways, among others, says it transports animals â€œof all shapes and sizesâ€ but makes no specific mention of hawks or the like. Nor does the British low-cost airline Easyjet, or Irish carrier Ryanair.
In 2013, Gulf News reported that more than 28,000 falcons had been issued with passports since 2002 in a bid to combat the illegal trade of the birds in the region.
Though it is fairly rare for an animal to make an appearance in an aircraft cabin, in May last year it briefly became a common sight when Canadian airlines waived the restrictions on pets in the cabin to allow those evacuating forest fire-hit Fort McMurray to fly with their canine and feline companions.
Hong-Kong based photojournalist Palani Mohan recently delivered a TED Talk in Sydney describing his personal project photographing the last surviving Eagle Hunters in the Altai Mountains in Western Mongolia.
His photographs were featured in Mother Jones last December.
â€œHe pasado mi vida entre las nubes y amo todavÃa las criaturas que se defienden y huyen. (Guardo en la memoria el fantasma de una paloma inalcanzable que palpita para mÃ.) Hacia ella sigo volando, cada vez con menos brÃo. De noche, cavilo entre la rapiÃ±a y la ternura en un paisaje de rocas vacÃas.â€
“I have spent my life in the clouds and still love the creatures who defend themselves and flee. (I keep in memory the ghost of an unattainable dove that beats for me.) To keep it flying, each time with less verve. At night, I brood between the violence and tenderness in a landscape of empty rocks.”
The BBC did a recent feature of a 13-Year-Old Kazakh girl who is carrying on an unusual form of traditional hunting.
Most children, Asher Svidensky says, are a little intimidated by golden eagles. Kazakh boys in western Mongolia start learning how to use the huge birds to hunt for foxes and hares at the age of 13, when the eagles sit heavily on their undeveloped arms. Svidensky, a photographer and travel writer, shot five boys learning the skill – and he also photographed Ashol-Pan.
“To see her with the eagle was amazing,” he recalls. She was a lot more comfortable with it, a lot more powerful with it and a lot more at ease with it.”
The Kazakhs of the Altai mountain range in western Mongolia are the only people that hunt with golden eagles, and today there are around 400 practising falconers. Ashol-Pan, the daughter of a particularly celebrated hunter, may well be the country’s only apprentice huntress.
They hunt in winter, when the temperatures can drop to -40C (-40F). A hunt begins with days of trekking on horseback through snow to a mountain or ridge giving an excellent view of prey for miles around. Hunters generally work in teams. After a fox is spotted, riders charge towards it to flush it into the open, and an eagle is released. If the eagle fails to make a kill, another is released.
The skill of hunting with eagles, Svidensky says, lies in harnessing an unpredictable force of nature. “You don’t really control the eagle. You can try and make her hunt an animal – and then it’s a matter of nature. What will the eagle do? Will she make it? How will you get her back afterwards?”
In the US, falconry is so buried under a preposterous and massively burdensome regulatory regime that only an infinitesimally small community of total fanatics can participate. (There are something like 4000 licensed falconers out of an American population of 300 million.) In the United States, you can go right out there and buy a horse any time you like and take him home, but not a falcon. Unlike horses, you see, raptors are sacred and they all really belong to our federal government and various international conservancy committees. You must have special permission at both the state and federal level to borrow one of their birds. You are required to take a federal exam, sign up for a multi-year apprenticeship under a licensed falconer, and open your home to federal inspection to even possess your first hawk, and your choice of falcon is restricted to only 2 (in some regions, 3) species until you achieve a more advanced license level.
Can you imagine a dog ownership regime that would require federal licensing and then would allow you only to own a chihuahua or a Golden Retriever until you had been a licensed dog for two years? Then you become a “general dog owner” and can own two dogs at the same time, including such more interesting breeds as poodles, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds. You would need to be licensed for five years before you could be a “master dog owner” and own three dogs at the same time or be permitted to possess the more exotic and desirable salukis, borzois, and Akitas.
It’s different in Arab countries, where falconry is a far more prominent and mainstream sporting activity.