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. The Dude


    November 23, 2010 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. Krista

    Poor birds. They must have been terrified. I'm surprised they didn't die from the stress.

    November 23, 2010 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • A. Nony

      Their eyes were covered.

      Not to mention, I doubt many animals other than humans get claustrophobic. Most likely, these birds may have had cramps or sore, stiff joints, or lack of bloodflow. That is what I'd be more worried about.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • k jett

      I have raised parrots for years and I am shocked about this story. I have heard of large parrots being sumggled out of mexico inside hub cape on moving vehicles. Remember, there is nothing a lot of prople wouldn'd do to make money including our government!!!

      November 24, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. NetNinja

    People are greedy and selfish. Just go to any pet store and you see the enormous ammount of wildlife that has been taken from it's natural habitat and please don't tell me they raise those animals in captivity. The ammount of dogs, cats rabbits, Parrots, Salt water fish and freshwater in just one pet shop alone is enough to boggle the mind now times that by 10,000 pet shops and you see how devestating it is to envrionments. The puppy mills that breed these dogs is a sad event for the female dog whos primary function in life is to raise litter after litter of pups. Then whenever a movie comes out the masses are swayed like sheep for the movie of the month. 101 Dalmations? Guess how many dalmations were sold during the run of that movie. Finding Nemo? Guess how many clownfish were sold by pet stores. people are stupid mindless sheep.

    November 23, 2010 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. mmi16

    And how many sheep are sold every time the story of Little Bo Peep is told.

    November 23, 2010 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      How many sheep are sold? COME ON, ARE YOU AN ADULT? I SERIOUSLY DOUBT IT.

      November 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hangedman

      Elaine - look up the word "sarcasm" in the dictionary (assuming you know what a dictionary is). Also find the Caps Lock key and turn it off.

      November 25, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. IndieNYC

    They should make a Disney movie about the capture and re-sale of endangered species...."Plight of the Falcon"

    November 23, 2010 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
    • What th?

      Nah – JAILBIRDS.

      November 23, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jerkinp

    Man these Muslims can never seem to stop. First the blow themselves up killing innocent infidels for 72 virgins and now there's even news that they been going after endangered falcons. Some country with nukes needs to give them all their 73 virgins before the Muslims destroy the world.

    November 23, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
    • cameron2k

      Dude did u even read the story? the smuggling was done by a RUSSIAN. maybe you dont know the difference between Moscow and a Mosque!!!!

      November 23, 2010 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Kyle

      I was actually looking for an arrogant comment such as the one you made. Get a working brain.

      November 25, 2010 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
    • A. Non

      The smuggling was done for tthe Arab market - for the same lovely people who hunt the oryx (a rare gazelle) using machine guns and riding in jeeps.

      November 25, 2010 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  7. MidwestGal

    Did you know that the bird is the word?!

    November 23, 2010 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob B


      November 23, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Here4giggles

    Bird bird bird is the word, Birdbirdbird bird is the word.....In Peter Griffins voice!

    November 23, 2010 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  9. wendy

    Give her thirty lashes then send her to Siberia to do some hard time.

    November 23, 2010 at 2:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. herrsonic

    Pistole claims that a body scan and a pat down would have detected the Falcons.
    Also, he recommends a pat down of the Falcons to make sure they're not carrying any device of mass destruction.

    November 23, 2010 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  11. Lyl

    Part of the REAL problem is the joking about this CRIME.

    November 23, 2010 at 3:06 am | Report abuse |
    • OhPlz

      Get a life.

      November 23, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • bear lover

      Ohplz–YOU get a life. What, is this topic not important enough for you, yet you take time to comment on it? That makes a lot of someone with no life.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jason d

    I say kill and cook the birds to feed the hungry and fashion clothes from the feathers.

    November 23, 2010 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
    • bear lover

      oh, another predictable, juvenile animal-hating quip! Yay! I bet you feel like a big man now, Jason!

      November 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. LOW LYF


    November 23, 2010 at 3:52 am | Report abuse |
    • mrsdahmer

      well, how bout a partridge in a pear tree?

      December 5, 2010 at 4:20 am | Report abuse |
  14. moribundman

    The proper punishment should include swaddling and a thorough pat-down by an overly enthusiastic TSA drone.

    November 23, 2010 at 4:23 am | Report abuse |
  15. regertz

    Her name wasn't by any chance Wonderly, or O'Shaughnessy? And there wasn't a small dark, dapper little man named Cairo on the plane? Darting away after she was taken, followed by a hugely fat but oddly gentile man in bowler?

    "The falcon, sir. Do you have any idea, sir, what the falcon could be worth?"

    "Oh, I know the price you people put on it in human life."

    "May one ask if this incident has connection to the death a little later of the man Thursby?"

    November 23, 2010 at 5:15 am | Report abuse |
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