November 22nd, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Report: Woman detained after falcons found in luggage

The eight gyrfalcons were swaddled in pillow cases and other cloth when customs officials discovered them at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport.

Customs officials seized eight rare falcons at the Moscow airport after a woman tried to smuggle the wrapped, boxed birds out of the country, the International Fund for Animal Welfare reported.

The gyrfalcons were found in two cartons being loaded into the hold of a plane bound for Damascus, Syria, on Sunday, the group said. The woman who checked the cartons as her luggage was detained and released pending a court appearance.

“At least 100 wild gyrfalcons are smuggled out of Russia each year, primarily driven by demand from the growing popularity of falconry in the Middle East,” said IFAW’s Russia director, Masha Vorontsova, in a statement.

The fast and powerful predator is the world's largest falcon. It breeds in arctic and subarctic regions and preys primarily on large birds, according to the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.

They can command as much as $50,000 on the black market. Officials believe the birds seized at Sheremetyevo International Airport were captured in Russia’s Far East and transported through two security checkpoints and a customs inspection before being detected.

The birds are expected to survive and will reside at IFAW’s raptor rehabilitation center until they are ready to be released into the wild, likely sometime next month.

The gyrfalcon is listed in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red Book of endangered species and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species’ Appendix I. The latter designation, says IFAW, makes any commercial trade involving the birds illegal.

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Filed under: Crime • Environment • Russia
soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. applejacks

    to Bear lover:

    First, the reference to kashmir may be about the slaughtering of endangered goats for th production of cashmir- which is by the way, one of the most horrific cycle of slaughter in history. If you can find the information about it, please read up on it. The cashmir trade is a global problem, even here in the US.

    Second, just because someone cracks a joke about this doesn't make them a child. Laughter and humor begin a healing process, and in this particular case, the falcons are expected to make a full recovery. This crime was found out and stopped this time, and media coverage may help to prevent it from happening again (hopefully).

    Third, Its understandable to think this woman and anyone involved in this trade are disgusting but to say humans are disgusting isn't right not only because it does disservice to those humans who fight for fair animal treatment but also because it spreads responsibility for these atrocities evenly for everyone. I believe that if we want to seriously see situations improve for animal populations we need to focus on those parties who are committing those crimes. Look at how the production of veal changed once the public became aware of how it was raised. That type of focus has meant that many people have never and will never eat veal.

    My intent isn't to be critical with these comments, so apologies if it seems as such. The internet seems to be more and more a dump for vitriol...

    November 24, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. matt

    They should tie her up and put her in a box as punishment.

    November 24, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Animal Pal

    poor animal. off her!

    November 24, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. FalconEater

    Have you actually ever eaten falcon? It's quite delicious and I would recommend everyone do the same. I'm not sure why everyone is getting so upset over this.

    November 25, 2010 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. FalconEater

    Has anyone actually ever eaten falcon? It's quite delicious. I'm not sure why everyone is getting so upset.

    November 25, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. teddyj22

    hi all, enjoy the falcon story with some turkey and gravy!

    November 25, 2010 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  7. Wussssa

    She was let go pending a court appearance??? That right there is not right. If she is doing this for some kind of criminal organization, poof! She will disappear.

    November 25, 2010 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  8. Brian

    May her stay in the Gulag be short and painful.

    November 25, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. VegasRage

    The womans alibi? "Wow I had no idea how they got there, the falcon's of today are getting so lazy now they are stowing away in peoples luggage just so avoid flying, what's this world coming to!?"

    November 25, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. buteobliss

    Yeah, this sucks–bad treatment of birds. Something to mull over as we eat our factory-raised, production-line slaughtered, over-medicated turkeys.

    November 25, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Margo Zargo

    The Arabs should just mate some of the ones that they already have. Home grown is always the best.

    November 25, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Master Falconer

      Margo, They do. In fact, they have some very elaborate breeding facilities. Peregrines and Grys are sucessfuly produced legally in many countries. The U.S.A. and Great Britian probably produce the greatest number of birds for use in falconry.

      November 26, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Master Falconer

    Why would even a rich Arab pay $50,000 for a falcon that can be purchased legallyfor less than $10,000>

    November 26, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Master Falconer

    It is obvious that the majority of people commenting on this report, know less about what they are saying than Ms. Vorontsva and she is clueless.

    November 26, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mrsdahmer

    how can people speak so abusive about a human, and CLAIM to care so much about birds? has anyone here ever been fishing? how do you think it feels to have a hook in your throat while being smothered to death? or eaten lobster? how do you think it feels to be boiled alive? but you want to dole out such harsh punishments? do you want to put hooks in throats of fishermen's necks and smother them to death? do you want to boil to death someone who eats lobster? think about the WORST ting youj have EVER done in your life. were you put in a suitcase and put in solitary confinement for LIFE? did someone . torture YOU? cmon, those without sin may cast the first stone! judge not LEST YE BE JUDGED! i mean for REAL!! you people are brutal!! this IS A PERSON, LIKE YOU!! NOT A BIRD OR A FISH!!! what it matters JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE PRETTY? BUT IS FINE TO BEHEAD AND EAT CHICKEN? TURKEY? COW? COME ON!!! YOUR ALL A BUNCH OF HYPOCRITES!

    December 5, 2010 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
  15. Johnny

    Amen, most people feel that way.

    November 23, 2010 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
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