First-of-its-kind film on sooty falcons creates buzz

Muscat - 

A first-of-its-kind documentary film on ‘near-threatened’ sooty falcon has broken new grounds.  

The film sheds light on the life cycle of this long range flier, from breeding in Oman to migration to Madagascar via Red Sea and the coast of Africa.
Oman is considered to be one of the most important breeding grounds for the sooty falcon, which is categorised as ‘near-threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with perhaps four per cent of the global population being found on Fahal Island alone.

The hour-long film titled, The Migrant - Sooty Falcons in Oman was commissioned by Office for Conservation of the Environment (OCE) and produced by National Sustainable Development Company (INTEWO) in an effort to document the research carried out by OCE and raise awareness on its conservation.

Robin Jähne-sooty falcon

The production team spent around two years to make the film of which 14 months went into shooting and it took another six months to edit hundreds of hours of raw footage. Robin Jähne, who along with Sarah Herbort, shot the film, told Muscat Daily, “Shooting the film was not easy as we had to camp on the islands (Fahal and Damaniyat) for days in the blistering summer heat. Also, the birds are perched up high in the cliffs so we used latest technology in filming by using remote controlled cameras,” he said, adding that his team ended up with 150-200 hours of raw footage.

Using remote controlled cameras provided the opportunity to be up and close to the birds 24x7. “We wanted to capture the birds in their natural environment and document their behaviour. Getting high quality footage from as close as few centimetres was a big plus for the team and the film,” Jähne said.

The team followed the falcons during the breeding seasons in their habitat on islands in the Sea of Oman, and the migration route crossing the Al Hajar mountains and the Rub al Khali desert in Oman, resting in the Horn of Africa, finally reaching Madagascar - the sooty falcon’s wintering destination.

Dr Mansoor Hamad al Jahdhami, managing director of Environmental Affairs, OCE, said that making a film on sooty falcons was important to document the distinctive life cycle of the birds and also the conservation efforts.

“The conservation requires concerted efforts at the international level because these migratory birds pass through many countries and any threat or risk in any one of these countries will consequently affect the world population of these birds... .”

Henning Schwarze, managing partner, INTEWO, said, “It was tough filming the birds in their habitat on Oman islands and following them through Ethiopia to Madagascar. The film is an important part of the scientific work carried out by OCE on sooty falcon conservation.”

Schwarze was also confident that the film, available in four languages, could attract attention of channels like National Geographic. The DVDs are currently available at Chado Tea Lounge in Al Mouj and Shatti Qurum and also at Nizwa Fort Coffee Shop in Nizwa. Schwarze added that more locations would follow.

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