Kazakh authorities say two Qatari nationals have been detained at the Almaty International Airport while apparently trying to smuggle 29 protected falcons out of the country.
The National Security Committee said on October 24 that the saker falcons (falco cherrug) were discovered by customs officers in 15 boxes belonging to the two suspects, who were heading to Doha, Qatar.
The saker falcon -- a protected species in many range states, including Kazakhstan -- is used for hunting in Persian Gulf states.
The price for such a bird on the Central Asian black market ranges between $10,000 and $15,000.
The saker falcon occurs from Eastern Europe to western China.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature says it has listed the species as "endangered" because its population may be undergoing a rapid decline as a result of electrocution on power lines, unsustainable capture for the falconry trade, habitat degradation, and other factors.
It says the rate of decline appears to be "particularly severe" in the species' Central Asian breeding grounds.
Illegal trafficking of saker falcons from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to Persian Gulf countries was frequent in the 1990s.
Based on reporting by Atameken Business TV and Interfax