'Tis the season for heart-warming stories. This one is about eight endangered gyrfalcons, who were recently released back to the wild after being seized by customs officials in Moscow. The birds were found "swaddled in cloth, hooded and packed four to a box," according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
The gyrfalcons went through four weeks of rehab before going back to the air in Kamchatka, part of their winter home range. They are only about 1,000 pairs of these falcons left in the wild in Russia, IFAW officials say.
The eight gyrfalcons were discovered back on Nov. 21, at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport, after a passenger bound for the Middle East checked two boxes containing the birds as personal luggage. She was removed from the plane and detained.
This happens too often. About 100 gyrfalcons are illegally captured every year from the Kamchatka Pensinsula. They can fetch as much as $50,000 (U.S.) each on the black market, and are prized by (apparently heartless) falconers.
The species is listed on the CITES Appendix I, which prohibits any international commercial trade of gyrfalcons.
IFAW works with Russian environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor to release smuggled birds like these back to their natural habitat. Again, it happens too often. See the related posts below.