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Rare Siberian Saker Falcon illegally caught and sold for $42,000 to an UAE buyer

By The Siberian Times reporter
06 December 2018

Ecologists from several countries lost battle to poachers who caught an endangered dark-feathered bird.

An endangered Siberian Saker falcon. Picture: WWF Russia


This bird from the Altai mountains was part of unique reintroduction project, based on the idea that grown-up falcons with eyasses would accept and raise ‘alien’ young bird as their own. 

Since the scheme started in South Siberia two years ago, 39 rare dark-feathered falcons were effectively reintroduced. 

One of them was given code number 181149 and received a GPS/GSM tracker in July.

Saker Falcons of the Altai subspecies are known for their beauty and greatly appreciated by falconers; their population in Russia was nearly wiped out by poachers.

The falcon was caught in October in Pakistan and sold for record amount to a buyer from one of Arab Emirates.

Rare Siberian Saker Falcon illegally caught and sold for whopping 42,000 US dollars to a buyer from an Arab Emirate


Rare Siberian Saker Falcon illegally caught and sold for whopping 42,000 US dollars to a buyer from an Arab Emirate

Places in Pakistan where the GPS signal tracker stopped working, and the place where the falcon was held before the sale to UAE 


‘Sadly Pakistan where our falcons migrate is Mecca for poachers. Sheiks are ready to pay mad amounts for such birds and for people from poor asian region poaching often becomes the only way to survive’, said Igor Karyakin, ornithologist from Russian Network For Study and Protection of Birds of Prey. 

As soon as unusual scheme of GPS signals showed that the bird was likely caught, ecologists from Altai and Sayany branch of WWF got in touch with colleagues in Pakistan. They figured the place where the signal was coming from and got all state and regional officials involved in order to rescue the falcon.

They were late. Investigation showed that the tracker was taken off and left in one place, and the bird was sold in the most expensive deal of the season.

‘It is impossible to fill this market of falconry because every year Arab hunters who buy 90% of all birds release them into the wild, according to age-old tradition. 

‘But most of these birds die from stress, which is what experts proved by studying GPS trackers data’, said expert Igor Karyakin from Novosibirsk. ‘Therefore this situation will repeat.’ 

Rare Siberian Saker Falcon illegally caught and sold for whopping 42,000 US dollars to a buyer from an Arab Emirate


Rare Siberian Saker Falcon illegally caught and sold for whopping 42,000 US dollars to a buyer from an Arab Emirate
A Siberian Saker Fakcon and a GPS tracker taken from Pakistani poachers. Pictures: WWF Russia 


Such interest in poached falcons is explained by belief that wild birds hunt better than the ones bred in captivity. 

Ironically most of the birds sold by poachers were bred in captivity. 

‘Our falcon that was caught in Pakistan was brought up in Vitasfera birds nursery and successfully reintroduced. Now it will become a hunting bird of some Arab sheikh, who will feel proud of his ‘wild’ falcon, which could have been in fact legally bought’, said director of SibEcoCentre Elvira Nikolenko. 

In Russia Saker Falcon are raised and sold at prices hundred times cheaper than on black market; the two well-known bird farms are ‘Vitasfera’ in Moscow and ‘Altai Falcon’ in Barnaul. 

The reintroduction project is ran since 2017 by Russian Network for Study and Protection of Birds of Prey, SibEcoCentre company in Novosibirsk, WWF Russia and fund 'World Around You' set by Siberian Wellness company. 

Pictures below show Siberian Saker Falcons inside a nest, a brother of the falcon that was caught in Pakistan and sold to UAE, and one of the falcons with a bird expert before release 

Rare Siberian Saker Falcon illegally caught and sold for whopping 42,000 US dollars to a buyer from an Arab Emirate


Rare Siberian Saker Falcon illegally caught and sold for whopping 42,000 US dollars to a buyer from an Arab Emirate


Rare Siberian Saker Falcon illegally caught and sold for whopping 42,000 US dollars to a buyer from an Arab Emirate

Comments (4)

Thank you Ted for your comments and suggestions. I really appreciate that you added suggestions and I agree that we can definitely find ecologically acceptable solutions. I like your ideas for addressing the challenge of enticing a migrating bird such as these falcons to an area where we can be helping them and not inadvertently putting them at risk.
Pamela K Tetarenko, United States
10/12/2018 00:59
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... I should have included the solution(s) to the problem of wildlife trackers compromising the security of a research-animal.

Firstly - don't put trackers on them.

Secondly, enrich a relatively controllable environment. If we are trying to build-up an endangered Black-Footed Ferret population, for example, take measures to bolster their prairie dog prey population (fertilize the grass).

Free-living birds like falcons display an extremely good memory for where they were able to obtain prey. They will return to your chicken-flock regularly, until they are all gone! We can simply release appropriate feed-birds in the vicinity of the falcons ... a vicinity we select and which we keep stocked with plentiful essentials ... a vicinity where illicit activities are readily subject to interdiction. Is this totally-free? No, but it is viable, and allows a founding-population to become established.

Enriching the lower levels of the pyramid works particularly well for apex predators; can be done in a wide range of relatively attractive, and ecologically acceptable ways.
Ted Clayton, Forks, WA USA
09/12/2018 21:54
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Pamela K Tetarenko,

Any kind of tracker emits a signal, and this emission is always readily detectable by basic radio & electronics craft. The emission-pattern can be continuous, or spaced at some time-interval, or triggered. Bottom line is, the tracker 'gives itself away' ... and its specific location on (or in) the animal.

Worse though, any tracking device that emits a signal can be tracked by entities other than the duly-appointed management-team. In other words, the tracker might be enabling the illicit locating & acquisition of the bird.

The researchers 'want to know' the activities of the bird, but installing a tracker lets others find it, too. This applies especially went there is a high-value market ... but even in 'low-level' animal-management contexts, trackers enable & empower various forms of opposition & exploitation.
Ted Clayton, Forks, WA USA
09/12/2018 21:27
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Thank you to everyone working so hard to help these magnificent birds. I have no doubt this is being investigated, I am just wondering if there is a tracking device that could be hidden from poachers and illegal purchasers so that the birds can be tracked all the way to being found and the criminals identified. Not only would this help the birds, this might help determine if the money is going to terrorism and not to feed innocent, impoverished-by-circumstances individuals.
Pamela K Tetarenko, United States
09/12/2018 04:54
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1
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