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Rare falcons are tattooed to escape being sold to Arab sheikhs by poachers

By Olga Gertcyk
28 April 2021

Desperate attempt to protect saker falcons known as the feathery treasure of Siberia.

Unique dark-coloured saker falcons live only in Russia, on the border of Altai republic and the Tuva Republic. Picture: Altai Falcon nursery

A pioneering initiative by Siberian ornithologists saw 12 rare birds of prey tattooed with the word SOS on their waxes (leathery base of the beak) and number 22 on their tarsus, above the claws. 

The unusual step, used for the first time in the world, is aimed at protecting the young falcons from being caught by poachers and sold to Arab countries where they are valued as highly as gold. 

The tattooed falcons were bred in the Altai Falcon nursery for rare birds of prey, and a nursery of Altai State University. 

Soon all birds will be released to the wild in the Sailyugem National Park close to the Russian border with Mongolia.

It took a maximum of 15  minutes to tattoo each bird.

The beak and the tarsus areas were chosen as the least sensitive and, as ornithologists said, the falcons showed no sign of stress during and after the inking. 

Rare falcons are tattooed to escape being sold to Arab sheikhs by poachers


Rare falcons are tattooed to escape being sold to Arab sheikhs by poachers


Rare falcons are tattooed to escape being sold to Arab sheikhs by poachers
The beak and the tarsus areas were chosen as the least sensitive and, as ornithologists said, the falcons showed no sign of stress during and after the inking. Pictures: Altai Falcon Nursery


‘At the end of the 20th century, the population of saker falcons was practically destroyed in the area, as poachers were catching birds for falconry. Tattooed falcons will have absolutely no market value in the Arab counties, because tattoos are not welcome in the Muslim world. 

‘If these birds are caught, we hope they will be released even by poachers,’ said Denis Malikov, director of Saylyugem National Park.

Saker falcons (Falco cherrug) is a large falcon. 

90% of the world population of saker falcons nest in Asia. 

Unique dark-coloured saker falcons live only in Russia, on the border of Altai republic and the Tuva Republic. 

Rare falcons are tattooed to escape being sold to Arab sheikhs by poachers


Rare falcons are tattooed to escape being sold to Arab sheikhs by poachers


12 rare birds of prey tattooed with the word SOS on their waxes (leathery base of the beak)
The tattoed birds will be released in early May in the Saylyugem National Park. Pictures: Altai Falcon Nursery, Sailyugem National Park


According to ornithologists, over the past 20 years, the number of the birds has halved: no more than 1,200 breeding couples now live in Russia.  

The main cause of the catastrophic decline in the population is illegal poaching aimed at smuggling the birds mainly to Arab countries, where falconry is popular.

The Saker Falcon is listed in the IUCN Red Book and Russian Red Book.

Comments (2)

So sad that it's had to come to this for these majestic beautiful rare treasures...

However to cut the demand is virtually impossible as with the Rhino horn poaching; so the only two solutions left to deter and cut the poaching attempts are to poison and dye the rhino horn and in these black falcon's case tattoo and dye the birds to mark them and devalue them.

Or legalize and regulate trade as might be the case with Rhino's, tigers etc...unfortunately in the future. Hope that this drastic method has the same success as with deterring rhino horn poachers,
Anonymous, Switzerland
02/05/2021 00:58
5
0
Good plan. Hope it works.
David B. Benson, United States
30/04/2021 07:51
6
0
1

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