Peregrine falcon – Messi
We lost Messi, our peregrine falcon
He came in May 2016 from a private falcon-breeding facility in the south of Spain. He was just 20 days old; he was not even fully grown. He was the smallest one of the clutch and the darkest one, a beauty at the first sight and really easy to train, for he had a nice, quiet personality.
It took two weeks more till his feathers were fully grown and then I could start with his training. And he did everything perfectly. He learned easily to stand and eat on the falconer glove, he accepted his hood without problems, and he understood quickly that for acquiring his food he had to make the effort of flying from one glove to the other.
Happy with his progress I started the second part of training: To teach him to follow the lure on the amphitheatre so our visitors could appreciate the flight of the fastest animal on Earth. But then the problems started. Messi didn’t like to “play” with me. He wanted to hunt for real. Three times he flew away during the training and Eloi had to search for him – using telemetry – and three times I had to start Messi’s training from beginning. I decided: it was my last attempt to make him participate in the exhibition. If he didn’t want to fly just for fun, I’d give him to some falconer that would give him the opportunity to hunt for real. Because Messi flied excellently – just not in the place I wanted.
But then it happened: Messi understood the rules of the game, found fun in flying in front of people; he became an important member of our exhibition. As time passed by, he learned to master his flight and he started to practice vertical attacks in front of our visitors.
It was a cloudy afternoon during the Easter holidays. The exhibition started and then it was Messi’s turn to show his velocity and acrobatic skills. He made the first attack at the lure, wanted to turn, but an incredibly strong streak of wind took him and pressed him into the valley. He tried to come back and fought against the wind, but then the second streak came and he disappeared from our sight. Eloi spent all the evening looking for him but he had not luck. The second day he went on with the search, and finally, at 10 o’clock he found Messi some 3 km from our zoo in a valley of Canalda. But Messi didn’t want to fly down from his tree. And Eloi had to leave him there, because the exhibition at the zoo was about to start and he was needed there.
After the exhibition and guided tour in our park we went back to the valley to pick Messi up, but he was not there anymore. What is more: it started to rain in streams and suddenly our receptor turned mute. The signal of Messi‘s transmitter was lost. Probably the rain shortcut the battery. There was no hope for us to find him anymore.
Is there any possibility for him to come back?
As you know our zoo is placed in beautiful protected area in the Pyrenees. We are surrounded by wildlife, where the rules of nature reign. As far as our animals overfly the border of “our territory” they become part of the wildlife. There is a breeding pair of wild peregrine falcons on the cliffs just behind the zoo. And they defend their territory. They need this area for ensuring enough food for their offspring. The father of a peregrine family would never allow a foreign young male to invade its territory. They do not kill the intruder, just make him fly away.
So, though we do not hope that Messi will come back, we think that he flew so well, that he is able to survive in nature and we hope he will find some nice wild falcon-lady and form family. (This is a great facet of working with native animals. If they leave us, there is no danger for the nature. If they are capable of survive, to avoid predators and find enough food, they just merge with the wildlife.)
We wish Messi good luck in his new life without our protection.