On 19 December 2019, the New York Times profiled Doha’s famous falcon hospital. Author Tariq Panja detailed the advanced medical facilities at the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital, considered to be one of the most advanced in the world. Subsidized by the Qatari government, it treats over 150 falcons every day for regular checkups to threatening illnesses. The falcon hospital’s well-funded operation is a testament to the unique status the falcon enjoys in Qatar as a symbol of national pride.
The falcon’s importance in Qatar is unmistakable:
In Qatar, as in several other countries in the Gulf, the falcon fulfills a variety of roles, from family pet to status symbol to racing competitor. But falcons also provide an important and valued link to the region’s ancient Bedouin culture.
The falcon hospital offers some of the world’s most specialized and advanced treatments for the bird of prey:
Treatment options and special equipment offered by the hospital: blood and kidney tests; feather replacements; endoscopies. Speaking faster and faster, he eventually stops to draw a breath and say, “We have everything.”
Set over multiple floors, the facility, subsidized by Qatar’s ruler, treats about 150 falcons a day. Most of the birds come for checkups after being bought in the many shops selling falcons nearby, or to have what staff members nonchalantly describe as a mani-pedi, the falcon equivalent of a manicure in which its beak and talons are sharpened while under general anesthesia.
Hospital treatment procedures range from the mundane to life-saving:
Others arrive to have radio transmitters and GPS devices fitted so their owners can keep track of the expensive birds when they take them out to hunt. The devices are typically attached to tail feathers, though some require invasive implantation surgery.
The most serious work — orthopedic surgery to mend broken bones that in the wild would mean certain death — takes place in an inpatient unit housed on another floor.
(Image Source: Twitter – @ItalianFalconry)