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Sheer cruelty: fourteen gyrfalcons confiscated from poachers in secret services operation

By 0 and 0 and 0
31 October 2012


Domodedovo airport customs released pictures of gyrfalcons prepared for transportation to UAE (year 2010). Picture: The Siberian Times 

The 14 birds - included in the Russian Red Book - were seized from a garage in a residential district of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, said the Federal Security Service (FSB). Fortunately, after examination by experts, these gyrfalcons were successfully released back into the wild so saving them from possible illegal export.

'They were kept in anti-sanitary conditions. Most of the birds were female falcons. They are most highly valued on the markets of countries where falconry is popular,' revealed an Itar-Tass report.

Gyrfalcons are specially in demand in Arab countries and it is estimated that 100 or so birds are annually smuggled from Kamchatka region. 

In this case, the birds were held by a Russia citizen who was a native of an unnamed Arab state. The man also was not named. 

He claimed that he had bought the birds for a bird sanctuary 'with a view to breeding them subsequently to restore the gyrfalcon population', an FSB official told the news agency. 

The man is facing criminal charges for cruelty in handling the birds. 

Though the full story is not known in the latest case, bird protection organisations have warned in the past about 'a well-organized criminal network on the Kamchatka Peninsula involving catchers, veterinarians, couriers, 'business' bosses and other accomplices with well equipped poaching shelters and transporters'.


In the wild: gyrfalcon  

In 2010, eight endangered gyrfalcons were rescued from a failed smuggling operation at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport.

They were found swaddled in cloth, hooded and packed four to a box. The passenger, who checked the cartons as personal luggage, was removed from the plane, bound for the Middle East. In another case the same year, two were seized at the city's Domodedovo Airport as they were being smuggled to the  United Arab Emirates. 

These white gyrfalcons were handed over to the Kremlin for use in official ceremonies. 

'The white gyrfalcon is a unique bird that historically has always symbolized Russian statehood,' said Environment and Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoi.

They joined  a dozen birds of prey used during parades and other ceremonies but also deployed to scare off crows from the historic cathedrals and buildings. 

While there is disagreement on overall numbers, one estimate is that no more than 1,000 pairs of these falcons are left across Russia, and about half this population is in Kamchatka. 

The International Fund for Animal Weflare has previously warned: 'To our regret, the demand for them as falconry species is growing. This increase occurs especially in autumn, the peak of the falconry season in the Middle East.'

In August, a group of nine Syrian men were detained by police in Khakasia as they allegedly plotted to poach endangered Saker falcons.

Comments (2)

V angry, F
02/11/2012 19:19
didnt even understood at first that it was real birds not toys in the box. speechless
Stas , Germany
31/10/2012 22:58

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