Operation Easter: 24 years of stopping egg thieves & egg collectors

Press release from the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU)

Wild birds are nesting and the national campaign to protect them across the UK is underway.

Egg thieves will go to any lengths to raid the nests of rare wild birds but Operation EASTER is determined to stop them in their tracks.

Operation EASTER was developed in Scotland 24 years ago.  The operation is now facilitated by the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) in conjunction with UK police forces and partner agencies.  The operation targets egg thieves by sharing intelligence across the UK to support enforcement action.

[Peregrine eggs area particular target. Nestcam photo by Nick Mooney]

In recent years the operation has also been expanded to cover some emerging trends of criminal behaviour – the illegal taking of raptor eggs or chicks to launder into falconry; the online trade in eggs and the disturbance of nests for photography.

The taking of wild bird eggs is a serious crime yet it remains the pastime of some determined individuals.  Whole clutches of eggs can be taken from some of the UK’s rarest birds with potentially devastating impacts. The eggs are stored in secret collections. 

Chief Inspector Kevin Kelly (Head of the NWCU) says: “Operation Easter is a yearly event that is engrained within wildlife crime Policing. This year we have given the operation some much needed emphasis, focusing our efforts onto assisting Police Wildlife Crime Officers on the front line.

The NWCU collates and disseminates the information that identifies the hotspot areas where the crimes are likely to be committed and we work with Police officers and partners to ensure these areas of interest are given the attention they deserve, to protect the future of our wild birds. We have a number of skilled and dedicated Police Wildlife Crime Officers across the UK who have adopted this operation and will work with us to reduce criminality, and for this, I thank them greatly“.

If you have any information on egg thieves, or those who disturb rare nesting birds without a license, you should contact your local police by dialing 101 – ask to speak to a wildlife crime officer if possible. Nesting will be in full swing by April so please contact the police if you see anyone acting suspiciously around nesting birds.

Information can also be passed in confidence to Crimestoppers via 0800 555 111.


3 thoughts on “Operation Easter: 24 years of stopping egg thieves & egg collectors”

  1. Wouldn’t it be nice if every convicted egg thief, as part of their sentence, was given a curfew limiting their movement, as well as being electronically tagged each year for the duration of the breeding season?
    Such a move might deter this awful crime.

    On a positive note- the Sheffield peregrines are currently incubating 4 eggs. The webcam can be viewed at : http://peregrine.group.shef.ac.uk

    1. The introduction of custodial sentences for egg theft in the UK has acted as a significant deterrent and has had an impressive impact on the scale of this type of wildlife crime. There are still some diehard collectors around, and also still some interest in collecting for the falconry trade, but the scale is nowhere near what it used to be.

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