Conservationists Tattoo Birds to Discourage Poaching

These rare saker falcons are getting tattoos on their beaks and feet in an attempt to stop poachers from capturing and selling them. The birds are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with only an estimated 12,200-29,800 mature individuals left in the world.

Conservationists in Siberia tattooed the captive-born, weeks-old falcons with 'SOS' on the base of their beaks and numbers on their feet just above the claws. According to ornithologists, the placement was chosen because they were the least sensitive areas, and the birds reportedly didn't seem stressed or in pain during the 15-minute procedure. When ready, the falcons are then either released into the wild or put in wild saker falcon nests in national parks.

Saker falcons are poached for falconry and hunting, with prices reaching tens of thousands of dollars per bird. Because buyers prefer unmarked birds, conservationists are hoping the tattoos will ruin the falcons' market values, prompting poachers to set them free.