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. Presence

    She only has herself to blame..
    It is Nobody's Fault but hers..................

    November 23, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  2. sam nair

    Great animal

    November 23, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. buglao pinto bird person

    These days its all about money, no feelings for the animal itself.

    November 23, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • mrsdahmer

      are you a vegetarian then? do you pay money for meat to eat? do you feed meat to your children?would you slaughter a cow? how bout a chicken? are you a Hypocrite?

      December 5, 2010 at 6:10 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mok

    If the birds command $50,000 in the black market, then charge her $50,000 for each bird and add a little extra incentive to never try it again....make her watch DWTS for 24 hours a day for the next week...she'll never step out of line again, if she lives thru it

    November 23, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. buglao pinto bird person

    In my country they would cut it up and feed it to her directly straight raw

    November 23, 2010 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • mrsdahmer

      WOW! REALLY? IN what country do you live that has such practices?

      December 5, 2010 at 6:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Barbara

    It truly upsets me that people have no respect for our wildlife. she probably has no idea how she has traumatized those falcons. They should lock her in a room with the falcons for about a month and then go back and see whats left of her.

    November 23, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • AnewKINDofFEELIN

      Don't forget the straightjacket and ankle restraints.

      November 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. petvet

    It doesn't take much pressure on the keel bone (breast) to suffocate a bird...I'm surprised these birds can survive such "swaddling"

    November 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. petvet

    nom they don't eat falcons, they hunt with them. look up the sport of falconry.

    November 23, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. petvet

    i meant no, not nom

    November 23, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. AnewKINDofFEELIN

    That picture is so disheartening. Those poor birds are gorgeous and deserve to be treated as gods for the rest of their days. So majestic. I'm glad they caught the self-serving witch.

    November 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bear lover

    Human beings are disgusting.

    November 23, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. phoenix

    i wounder what will happen to the lady. please let it be a life sentence in solitary confinement or maybe something worse!
    poor birds i wonder if they are okay...... but geez!! i would be cramped from head to toe if i was in that many restraints and hooded!!! especially if it was a long trip.

    November 23, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lila

    It's horrifying to see such majestic birds lined up in sacks like that and why was she released? She's just going to do it again. They should have dragged her to jail in a suitcase without wheels.

    November 23, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JackMeHoffen

    Does this mean that the Falcon I ordered for Thanksgiving Meal is going to be late?

    November 23, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. benjamin

    i like to fly kites

    November 24, 2010 at 5:20 am | Report abuse |
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