China has sent 10 saker falcons, a bird under state protection, to Qatar "for scientific research to better help protect and preserve the bird," an officer of the Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau in Northwest China's Gansu Province told the Global Times on Thursday.
The falcons were captured in Gansu and sent on Tuesday, from the city of Lanzhou, capital of Gansu, the Lanzhou Evening News reported.
The saker falcon shipment came at the request of the Qatari royal family. China caught the birds under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, with the State Forestry Administration (SFA) approval, according to the news report.
Mao Haiyan, an officer at the Gansu Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, which was in charge of the move, told the Global Times that the falcons will be used for research "to better protect and preserve the bird and to study ways to enlarge the group."
Mao said that China has cooperated with Qatar on falcon research before and that Qatar has sent falcons to China for protecting the birds and for the ecology.
China introduced the first saker falcons from Qatar, 45 in all, in 2015, said the Xinjiang Entry Exit Inspection and Quarantine Port. The falcons were sent to a quarantine farm in Altay Prefecture then to a breeding center for falcons, Xinjiang Metropolis Daily reported.
In 2015, China started providing the breeding center with enough young birds so they could be returned to the wild after they grew up, read the report, adding that the purpose was to increase the number of falcons.
The saker falcon is included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and is a second-tier animal under state protection in China. According to a report from the IUCN in 2017, the global population of saker falcons is estimated at 12,200 to 29,800 mature individuals, with the overall population experiencing a 47-percent decline in 1993-2012.