The rare Saker falcon from Russia illegally caught and sold in Pakistan
A Saker Falcon fitted with a satellite tracking device
by WWF Russia for research purposes was caught by trappers and sold out to the
wildlife traffickers in October. The ornithologists have been following the
bird since summer when the falcon was tagged with GPS/GSM-transmitter in Siberia,
The bird was a part of the unique project of Altai-Sayan Programme of WWF Russia and Russian Raptors Research and Conservation Network to restore the population of the Altai falcon (Falco cherrug altaicus) in Russia. The Altai falcons have been almost caught out by poachers due to the outstanding exterior and dark morph (colour) that have a high reputation among Central Asian falconers.
Igor Karyakin, Russian Raptors Research and Conservation Network, Sibecocentre NGO:
The Saker falcon poached in Pakistan was tagged in Siberia in summer and received the number 181149. It was the part of the Saker falcon restoration project that have been implemented by WWF Russia and partners since 2017. The ornithologist raise the Saker falcon hatched in captivity in the nests of the wild Saker falcons.
As soon as WWF Russia experts received the information they immediately contacted the colleagues from WWF-Pakistan and the WWF partners informed their colleagues.
Several days past the first news after investigation, common monitoring and joint working of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department and WWF-Pakistan, the parties got the information. Unfortunately, it became clear that the tracker was removed from the falcon and the bird sold to the Arab traffickers at the black market at the price of several thousand US dollars.
The returning of Saker falcons (with English subtitles):
The Saker is a large falcon which inhabits the open
expanses of Eurasia. The Saker is a favorite hunting bird of Eastern falconers.
For centuries falconry connoisseurs have been inspired by the beauty of the
Saker’s attacks on large birds – capable of high speeds, the falcon takes off
at an acute angle, flies upwards a few metres before plummeting sharply, almost
vertically, and striking its victim with all claws thrust in front of its
strained legs. Falconers usually set Sakers loose on bustards which are several
times larger than the Saker itself, but in the wild Sakers catch larges types
of ground squirrel and pika.
The Altai Saker falcon restoration project in Russia has been implemented since 2017 by Russian Raptor Research and Conservation Network and Sibecocentre NGO in partnership with Altai-Sayan Programme of WWF Russia, World Around Foundation of Siberian Corporation, Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina Nature Reserve, Sailugemsky National Park, Khakassky Nature Reserve, Vitapshere and Altai-falcon rare birds’ nurseries, The Altai Project/Earth Island Institute, Ecotone и Herman Ottó Institute (Hungary).
The project tested the method of raising the chicks hatched in captivity in nurseries in the nests of the wild pairs of Saker falcons. The chicks are carefully brought from the nurseries and put into the nests of the birds that have their native chicks. The parents do not distinguish the chicks from their own native ones despite the difference in color and size, feed and raise them. For two years 39 chicks have been successfully placed into the nests and raised by wild birds. The loss of the “foster” chicks is comparable with the same of native chicks that proves that the chicks from captivity easily adapt to the wild and the restoration method is effective.
In 2018 the ornithologist with WWF support assessed the number of Sacker falcons in Altai-Sayan ecoregion and monitored 1185 (895–1475) nesting pairs which showed the decline in numbers by 12,6% for the last 10 years in Russia. In Russia the main threats for Saker falcons remain: poaching and wildlife trafficking, electrocution and shrinking of habitats.