Two attempts of illegal transportation of falcons were registrated during last month in Ukraine.
Cases of detention of illegally transported falcons by customs officers in Ukrainian airports have been already known. For instance, in 2002 Donetsk Airport suppressed exportation of three Gyrfalcons and six Sakers. After that, the birds were given to Kyiv Zoo. In 2005, Zaporizhzhia customs stopped an attempt of transportation of a falcon consignment (probably transit through Ukraine), comprising over 40 birds. In 2006, five Gyrfalcons were detained in the airport of Borispol, and due to unknown motives given to the Ukrainian Children Ecological and Naturalistic Centre (UCENC). Conditions of bird- keeping did not correspond to the norms prescribed for such cases, and the keeper in the UCENC was unqualified. As a result, birds began getting sick and die. It is strange, that the director of UCENC did not want to part with falcons until the last moment, and did not address for help to experts of Kyiv Zoo.
The year 2008 was also fruitful with detentions of illegal consignments of falcons by the customs of Borispol Airport. October 10, during customs examination of passengers of the flight Kyiv-Damask there were detained a consignment of 9 birds. According to our data it included the Gyrfalcon, Peregrine and 7 Sakers, all in awful condition. And again, due to inexplicable reasons these falcons were given to UCENC. The situation repeated with a bad scenario for the forfeited birds. To-date we know that one Saker died. There is also a suspicion that some birds were substituted for less “marketable” individuals.
November 19, again in Borispol Airport an Arabian citizen made at attempt to export 4 Sakers and was detained. In this case all birds were given to Kyiv Zoo and examined by veterinary service immediately after their receipt. Now birds are kept in good conditions under supervision of qualified specialists.
However, what about future of these raptors? At present there isn’t any special rehabilitation centre in Ukraine for keeping such birds, though much is said about it. This centre would both provide qualified keeping and prepare birds for further release in nature.
In addition, return in nature exclusively concerns the birds breeding in Ukraine (Saker and Peregrine) and only local populations. It is known that individuals of these species breeding in Ukraine are less demandable, and that is the reason why birds of other populations are more frequent among contraband falcons. But, what to do with the falcons, captured in other regions, in Asia, for instance? Experts can identify the original population of birds according to morphological parameters. The release of these ‘alien’ birds to nature is not justified ecologically. The problem is even more difficult in case of releasing the Gyrfalcon as the nearest sites of its breeding are located in Transpolar Europe. Effective release of these birds to nature is possible only in case of international agreements.
On the other hand, in Transpolar area and in Mongolia ornithologists observed breeding Peregrine Falcons having Arabian reins on their legs. Probably they were birds released (or escaped) from countries of Middle East. It means, for some subspecies of falcons it is possible to propose their release in nature within Ukraine. This way birds get a chance for normal life. However, this problem needs additional comprehensive investigation.
So, at present there is an urgent need to create a rehabilitation centre for birds of prey in Ukraine. This centre would provide good conditions for forfeited birds before their further release to nature. Besides, this centre also can be used as a shelter for injured birds, simply for birds which need help. Today the role of such centres is played by zoos, but generally this is not their function. As an ideal variant the centre of birds of prey rehabilitation should be established under the Ministry of Environmental protection of Ukraine, because most zoos are now subdivided to Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Ukraine