The world went wild last week over an unforgettable image of a weasel riding bareback on a woodpecker in flight. It is difficult to imagine a more astonishing moment that the one captured by amateur British photographer Martin Le-May, unless maybe if that woodpecker had a camera strapped to his chest. But that sort of nutty nature photography could only happen in Dubai, right?
Been there, done that, says Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. Also known as Fazza (when he’s writing poetry), the handsome heir to the crown recently posted a video taken by an eagle equipped with a Sony Action Cam as it swooped over the Burj Al Arab rooftop heliport, capturing amazing views of the coastal city. The bird had been lifted skywards in a drone-carried cage, then released to channel his inner Martin Scorcese.
See the bird film below.
The Sheikh is also ‘royalty’ on Instagram with 1.7 million followers who regularly check in to see him skydive, play polo, and cuddle his white tiger cub. He posted, “Through an eagle eye from @burjalarab expect higher on 14 of March. #FlyBurjKhalifa #MyDubai”. The feathered cinematographer was an Imperial Eagle named Darshan, an animal once on the Red List of endangered species until global conservation revitalized its ranks.
His highness referred to March 14, which is the date that NGO Freedom Conservation will attempt to set a new world record by flying another eagle from the top of the Burj Khalifa, this one named Victor and similarly fitted out with a camera. Standing 2722 feet high, the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, literally a bird’s-eye view.
An enormous screen set along the shore between the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa will air live images of the record-breaking flight. After his journey – if things go to plan – the eagle will return to Falconer Jacques-Olivier Travers in the park opposite to the Palace Downtown Hotel. Or maybe he’ll head to a Trader Vic’s to pal around with supermodels. #OnlyInDubai never fails to astound.
Freedom is a game-changing conservation movement that seeks to protect and reintroduce threatened birds of prey through creative conservation methods and generate global publicity for the cause. Founded by expert falconer Jacques-Olivier Travers and developed with conservationist Ronald Menzel, Freedom is centered on an exceptional breeding facility in Thonon, France.
Travers teaches birds of prey born in captivity to hunt and fly by skiing, kayaking and paragliding with them. It seems extreme French sports enable the birds to be reintroduced to nature with much better chances of survival and reproduction than with the traditional methods.
His methods are filmed – YouTube has a flock of these bird films: who knew this was a thing? Here’s a clip filmed by a bird over dunes outside Dubai city:
And another giving an aerial oversight of Dubai’s Palm Island:
The compelling content seems effective at harnessing global media attention (we sure fell for it) and engaging a new generation of conservationists. Watch it catalyze popular support for the protection of nature worldwide. You can connect with Freedom Online on Facebook (link here), TWITTER (link here), Instagram (link here) or do it old school and visit their website (link here).
Step aside, Birdman, we may have an eagle win an Oscar.