An enquiry, which started in the UK in 2009 involving the collecting and trading of wild birds’ eggs, has led to the conviction of three Swedish egg collectors today [Friday 31 January 2014] after a 23-day trial in the province of Ångermanland, in central Sweden. One of the men was jailed for a year.
In February 2009, a collection of over 2000 birds’ eggs was seized by police in County Durham. This was examined by RSPB investigators. Associated documentation and around 6000 emails showed the suspect was involved in exchanging birds’ eggs with a ring of people in England, Scotland, Sweden, the US and Australia. Andrew Seed, of Low Willington, County Durham, was convicted in December 2009 for keeping, trading and smuggling birds’ eggs. He subsequently received a suspended jail sentence.
The raid in northern England led to further investigations centering on two men in Scotland. Two large egg collections were seized. One of the men, Keith Liddell from Holm Dell Drive, Inverness, was convicted at Inverness Sherriff court in March 2013 of 13 charges relating to the trading and possessing eggs. He received 220 hours of community service.
Enquiries by Police Scotland and RSPB identified the link to egg collectors in Sweden, and information was supplied to the Swedish authorities. As a result, three addresses were raided in Sweden in 2010 and around 6,600 eggs were seized. The three men from Härnösand, Gothenburg and Vingåker faced over 100 charges relating to bird’ eggs taken from the wild between 2003 and 2009, and also in trading in birds’ eggs. The man from Härnösand received a one-year prison sentence. The other two received fines of around £1100 and £3800.
A clutch of wader eggs discovered at Liddell’s home were taken in Sweden. It is believed these were exchanged for red kite eggs.
At Seed’s home was a clutch of black-throated diver eggs – these eggs were specifically matched to a photograph seized by the Swedish Police of the eggs still in a Swedish nest in 2007. At an address of another man in Scotland a number of clutches believed to be from Scandinavia were seized. This included two clutches of crane eggs, and again these could be specifically matched to photographs of the eggs in nests in Sweden prior to being taken in 2002 and 2003.
Guy Shorrock, a senior RSPB investigations officer, said: “This enquiry which started in County Durham in 2009 has unraveled an amazing web of people, as far as the US and Australia, involved in the taking, keeping and trading of birds’ eggs.
“There has been a long history of the authorities and RSPB working to tackle egg collectors in the UK. We suspect that egg collectors in other countries may be below the radar of the authorities – for example, the enquiry in Sweden generated another enquiry in Finland leading to the seizure of another 10,000 eggs.
“The RSPB hopes this will send out a strong message to egg collectors at home and abroad.”
This article was first published by the RSPB.org.uk