NEW YORK (CBS) A woman was detained after Russian customs officials seized eight endangered falcons from her luggage at a Moscow airport.
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the gyrfalcons were discovered in two cartons being loaded with luggage into the baggage hold of a plane departing for Damascus, Syria. The birds were found packed four to a box, swaddled in cloth and hooded.
Officials at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport say she was trying to smuggle the birds out of the country.
The woman was detained and released pending a court appearance, IFAW reports.
"It is illegal to kill, capture or trade in these very endangered birds," Masha Vorontsova, IFAW's Russia Director, said in a written statement. "But at least 100 wild gyrfalcons are smuggled out of Russia each year, primarily driven by demand from the growing popularity of falconry in the Middle East."
According to the organization, a wild gyrfalcon is worth more than $50,000 on the black market.
The birds were sent to a rehabilitation center in Moscow and will be cared for until they are strong enough to return to the wild.
The accused falcon smuggler may not be flying for awhile.