NOVOSIBIRSK/ABAKAN, November 9 (RIA Novosti) - An attempt to smuggle 29 rare falcons worth about $127,000 out of Russia has been thwarted, the Siberian customs department said on Friday.
In July, two men, one from the UAE and the other from Bangladesh, brought 29 falcons into Russia under the pretext of keeping them in more comfortable conditions during the UAE's hot summer. They said they planned to return the birds in autumn.
In August the local sanitary, veterinary and biodiversity authorities examined the birds, which were being kept in an enclosure near the Siberian city of Chernogorsk, and compiled a detailed report on their condition.
However, another examination carried out two months later produced some alarming results: the birds' identification rings gave different ages and genders. "Some birds even "changed" their species - gyrfalcons turned into Peregrine and Saker falcons," the Siberian customs department said.
It became clear that their owners had planned to replace the birds which were too old and unfit for falconry with younger ones, caught by Russian poachers.
The birds were seized and temporarily taken to a rare birds sanctuary in the Republic of Altai. Their value is estimated at 4 million rubles ($127,000).
Their owners were charged with attempted smuggling and face up to seven years in prison if found guilty.