About two years ago Karim Rousselon shared with us the story of how a Swedish Peregrine Falcon was rescued from poachers at Casablanca. The same story happened again last November with a Peregrine Falcon from Finland and a Saker Falcon. This account is based on the report by K. Rousselon and his co-authors published today.
The Finnish Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus):
An adult male Peregrine Falcon of the peregrinus subspecies was captured by poachers on 1 November 2017 in the province of Médiouna adjacent to Casablanca. The bird was fitted on the left tarsus with a golden metal ring bearing the inscription ‘Museum Zool Helsinki Finland’, and on the right tarsus with a blue ring bearing the inscription ‘C5’ (photo 1).
This bird was ringed in a nest located on the ground in a peat bog on 14 July 2013 in northern Finland, about 50 km northeast of the town of Oulu.
The bird was released the same day by the poachers thanks to the negotiations led by the Moroccan Association of Falconry and Raptor Conservation (AMFCR).
The Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug)
The Saker Falcon is categorised as globally ‘Endangered’ in the IUCN Red List. The Saker Falcon being an eastern species is very rare in Morocco. There are only four previous records in the country:
- A bird captured near Essaouira at the end of the 19th century,
- A bird captured at 200 Km south of Casablanca in May 1963,
- A young female ringed and tracked by satellite in June 2009 in Hungary. It flew over Morocco and crossed to Mauritania where she was found dead at Dakhlet Nouadhibou in September 2009.
- A young bird photographed south of Tangier on 14 September 2012 by Javier Elorriaga (photo 2). In addition to Javi, the bird was observed also by Dick Forsman, Antonio Román Muñoz, Micah Scholer and Jay Carlisle. Note: the authors of this report (Rousselon et al. 2018) missed this observation.
Rescued from poachers and fitted with GPS transmitter:
A Saker Falcon illegally captured on 27 November 2017 by poachers in the Casablanca region. On 3 December, it was seized by the competent authorities and handed over to the AMFCR, which took care of it until its release.
The Falcon was ringed and equipped with a GPS transmitter provided by the International Falconry Association (IAF). The GPS tag was fitted by the Ecology team of the ECWP in the Missour area, eastern Morocco (photo 3). The bird was then released at Al-Baten Plateau on 15 December, in the presence of the Provincial Directorate of the Forestry Administration of Missour (HCEFLCD).
The end of the falcon’s journey:
Five days after its release, the Saker Falcon was unfortunately found dead on the bed of Oued Moulouya near the village of Megdoul Ouled Dahou. The autopsy revealed that its crop and digestive tract were completely empty, suggesting that the bird had failed to hunt and feed. He weighed only 550 grams and had lost 125 grams, or 25 g/day.
The bird will have travelled a total distance of 165 km. The tracking data showed that it was very active and disoriented for the first three days before returning to its migratory route and headed to the southwest along Oued Moulouya.
The authors of the report added that the mortality rate of young Saker Falcons in the wild is rather high citing the study of Prommer et al. 2012 (published in Aquila 119: 111-134). This study – about the migratory movements of Saker Falcons from Central and Eastern Europe – showed that 50% of young birds die before 31 December and 70% before reaching the adult stage.
Rousselon, K. Qninba, A. & Bergier, P. 2018. Deux captures-lâchers de faucons rares au Maroc. Go-South Bulletin 15: 1-6.