Kamchatka smugglers caught with 38 rare gyrfalcons
The damage caused by the violation is estimated at 9.5 million rubles ($380,000).
Representatives of enforcement agencies, the FSB, the veterinary service, and the Natural Resource Monitoring Agency (Rosprirodnadzor) travelled to Milkov, about 200 km north of Kamchatka’s capital of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, to carry out an investigation. Veterinarians on site found that most of the birds were in satisfactory, despite having been tied and cooped for long periods. Only a few of the birds’ wings were damaged. The birds are being held in a temporary shelter before their release, planned November 12.
The smugglers claimed to have bought the birds from an unidentified source in the town of Ossora in Karaginsky District in the northern part of Kamchatka. Experts say that to collect such a large number of birds would have required an organized operation of trapping and caring for the birds for several months.
The capture of this many birds speaks to the fact that Kamchatka has a well-organized criminal smuggling operation.
Endangered falcons are in high demand on the blackmarket of hunting birds in the Near East. Large sums of money are offered for the birds, encouraging Russian poachers and smugglers to break the law. “This is the largest case we have seen in recent years,” says Aleksei Vaisman, Head Coordinator of the Russian TRAFFIC Program. “Nine and a half million rubles in damages is a large enough fine to invoke federal criminal charges. Under the ensuing investigation, the smuggler’s channels will be identified – from where the birds were caught to where they were headed outside Kamchatka.”
Ornitologists say that as many as 100 gyrfalcons are smuggled from Kamchatka each year. In the past few decades, rare falcon numbers on Kamchatka have declined from 3,500 to only 500 pairs.