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'Trafficked' birds of prey finally set free five years on
11 October 2016 @ 11:41

FALCONS destined to be smuggled illegally from Spain to the United Arab Emirates are finally free from their 'traffickers' after five years.

A total of 101 live falcons and 11 dead ones were seized in 2011 and 16 people arrested in nine different provinces in Spain, all of whom belonged to a criminal gang which stole birds of prey and their nests in the wild.

The birds were placed in a breeding centre in Asturias to be cared for, but on the condition they could not be allowed to reproduce, and were not to be sold on – the latter being illegal anyway.

But Sheikhs in the UAE are prepared to pay up to €50,000 a bird, rising to as much as €200,000 for unique examples of their species – and the temptation was too great for the individuals who had the confiscated falcons in their custody.

They bred Peregrine Falcon and Gyrfalcon crosses, aiming to produce birds with the endurance and stamina of the former and the sharp instincts of the latter – but if they had escaped or been set free in the wild, they would have become predators of Spain's own native species of falcons.

The chicks were taken by the illegal breeders when they were 45 days old, meaning they were able to safely leave their nests, to Zamora (Castilla y León) where they were kept in conditions similar to their natural habitats until they had developed enough muscle through feeding and exercise to command the highest possible price among very wealthy buyers from the UAE who would use them for hunting, racing and exhibitions.


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