Published 12 November 2008

Kamchatka smugglers caught with Gyr Falcons

Vladivostock, Russia, 12 November 2008—traffic police from Milkovo District, Kamchatka, last night stopped a truck carrying 38 illegally captured Gyr Falcons. 

Gyr Falcons are in high demand for use in falconry © Nikolay Gerasimov  

Gyr Falcons are in high demand for use in falconry, particularly in the Middle East, where birds are offered for large sums of money. 

Under Russian law, the possession of a Gyr Falcon from Kamchatka carries a fine of RUB250,000, meaning if convicted, those arrested could face a total fine of RUB9.5 million (USD380,000) plus criminal proceedings. 

“This is the biggest such case recorded in recent years,” said Alexey Vaisman, Senior Programme Officer with TRAFFIC Europe-Russia, adding that he expected a criminal investigation to reveal where the birds were being taken. 

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 said the collection of a large number of birds would have taken several months, which indicated a highly organized criminal smuggling operation.

Enforcement officers and representatives from the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor) travelled to Milkovo, about 200 km north of Kamchatka’s capital, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, to carry out further investigations. 

Following veterinary inspection, three of the birds were kept for treatment, but the other 35 birds released. 

According to local ornithologists, as many as 100 Gyr Falcons are smuggled from Kamchatka each year and overall numbers have dwindled from 3,500 to 500 pairs in the region. 

Gyr Falcon is listed in Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which prohibits their international trade.