Mongolia to sell off endangered falcons

No one knows how many saker falcons still fly the skies of Mongolia, but the endangered species has faced a dramatic population plunge in recent years. BirdLife International estimates the species dropped 61% between 1990 and 2003, a rate of decline that conservationists fear is still the norm.

Mongolia has traditionally hosted one of the largest populations of saker falcons, with an estimated 2,500 birds in the year 2000. But the country doesn't have the resources to properly count the species, and some believe that there are now fewer than 1,000 falcons left in Mongolia.

That number is about to sink even further. Mongolia has agreed to capture 240 saker falcons -- as much of 25% of the country's populations -- and sell them to Emir Faisal Bin Ahmed Abdul Aziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia. The Emir will reportedly pay $9,800 per bird.

Mongolia is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates the sale, import and export of threatened fauna and flora, but according to a report in the UB Post, the Mongolian government does not put much credence in the trade rules, and has "already received two written warnings" from CITES.

According to BirdLife International, falconry is one of the major threats facing the saker falcon, which has also lost much of its habitat to agricultural development.