In Qatar, falcons serve important roles as pets, family icons, and racing athletes. Falcon owners prize them dearly, so when one is sick, it goes to the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital in Doha. It’s a luxurious and technologically advanced veterinary hospital that spares no expense for falcon care. Tariq Panja of the New York Times talked to Dr. Prasoon Ibrahim, a molecular biologist on staff who, even after 8 years of working at the hospital, still marvels at its facilities:
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“In my lab, I saw a gene sequencer for the first time,” he said, his eyes widening.
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. 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.