Suffolk Police warn public to be vigilant for peregrine egg thieves

Article from Stowmarket Mercury (May 25th 2021)

Thieves will go to ‘extreme lengths’ to steal rare birds’ eggs, police warn

By Michael Steward

The theft of rare birds’ eggs is still a problem in Suffolk and wildlife enthusiasts are being urged to stay vigilant to any suspicious behaviour. 

Although the crime is rare, egg thieves will travel the country to target rare species, according to Suffolk police. 

The peregrine is a particularly targeted bird for nest robberies, and is prized by both egg collectors and illegal falconers.  

It is believed that peregrine eggs can fetch up to £70,000 in the Middle East. 

[Peregrine nest in Yorkshire, photo by Glenn Kilpatrick]

Sergeant Brian Calver, from Suffolk police’s rural crime team, said thieves will go to “extreme lengths” to get their hands on prized eggs. 

He said: “It’s very rare these days for people to want to collect them but there are still a few hardcore people out there who have got an obsession and take them for their own collections and to swap among their close circles.

But also, further up the scale, you have got those who will take them for financial gain and that’s normally around raptors

Specifically things like peregrines because in the Middle East you’ve got people out there who will pay a vast amount of money for a wild peregrine

So there are egg thieves who will go to extreme lengths to get them and smuggle them out of the country to trade in the Middle East where it’s almost like gold within an egg shell. They are worth an awful lot of money.

Those people are rare but they are willing to travel the country to target certain species.”

Operation Easter, which runs across the UK throughout the bird nesting season, targets egg thieves and allows intelligence to be shared with police forces. 

Sgt Calver said Suffolk has seen incidents in recent years and urged the county’s birdwatching community to stay vigilant. 

A couple of years ago now we had some stone curlew eggs go missing from the Cavenham nature reserve,” he said. 

So I would like to get a message out to the public and the birdwatching community to be vigilant to anyone who does look out of place or look suspicious

Those who are out there to steal, there will be something about their behaviour which will stand out and look suspicious. It is worth reporting

If they do take them, especially a bird which has got a very bespoke need in terms of its habitat, you’ve only got to take one year’s set of eggs and that can have a massive impact on the species numbers for the future.”

ENDS

10 thoughts on “Suffolk Police warn public to be vigilant for peregrine egg thieves”

  1. No wonder with the price of female peregrines sky rocketed again this year it makes the theives more determined.

  2. Is there any evidence for peregrine eggs being stolen from nests and smuggled a quarter of the way around the globet? It seems completely bizarre that anyone in the MIddle East would go to such lengths when they just buy one legally from a commercial breeder. This article is more nonsense invented to create fear and drama. The only threats to peregrines are from the pigeon racing fraternity, who the very very odd time lash out at them through poisoning. The bird is green listed, common, and booming to the point that there aren’t enough nestsites now.

    1. “Is there any evidence for peregrine eggs being stolen from nests and smuggled a quarter of the way around the globet?” (sic)

      Indeed there is…

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/aug/19/wildlife-criminal-jail-smuggling-eggs

      https://www.livescience.com/falcon-egg-thief.html

      https://inews.co.uk/news/long-reads/peregrine-falcon-egg-theft-lockdown-middle-east-birds-of-prey-456117

      “The only threats to peregrines are from the pigeon racing fraternity”

      So no threat at all from the shooting mob?…

      https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2018/03/07/national-peregrine-survey-results-illegal-persecution-on-grouse-moors-affecting-distribution/

      1750 Pairs = “common”… Really?

    2. Hilary,
      The police would not make these statements lightly. They make their comments based on knowledge and intelligence that the public are not always privy to.
      You are very much mistaken if you believe the only threats to peregrines are from the pigeon racing fraternity.
      It is estimated that global wild life crime is worth around £18bn-£20bn a year.
      There are those in the Middle East involved in falconry who believe wild birds are faster and genetically superior to birds bred in captivity.
      When reported prizes at falconry contests in the Middle East are worth millions of pounds, and prices estimated at around £8000 for a young peregrine, to £17,000 for an adult peregrine then this will attract serious organised crime.
      It has even been reported that some Middle East falconers have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on birds illegally smuggled out of central Asia.
      Those involved in serious and organised wildlife crime are involved in much more than simply smuggling ivory, rhino horn, pangolins. Many other endangered species are illegally taken from the wild and smuggled across the world to wealthy buyers in the Middle East and Asia. This will include peregrine eggs and chicks from the UK.
      The UK government have previously stated: “The illegal persecution and trade of raptors and other species protected by CITES are two of the UK’s wildlife crime priorities, and our Border Force officers continue to work tirelessly to clamp down on this trade.”
      The RSPB have previously highlighted the theft of peregrine eggs as a serious problem in this country.
      In 2010, one smuggler involved in the global wildlife trade was caught trying to smuggle 14 peregrine falcon eggs he had stolen from sites in Wales onto a flight from Birmingham bound for Dubai. The value of the eggs at that time was estimated to be around £70,000.
      In 2020 Derbyshire Police reported charging a man with stealing peregrine eggs believed destined for the Middle East.
      So the article is not nonsense, and if the truth about serious organised crime and its involvement in global wildlife crime was truly understood and made public, it would cause far more “fear and drama” than this article ever could.
      So to answer your question- Yes, there is substantial evidence that peregrine eggs are being stolen from nests in the UK and smuggled a quarter of the way around the world to wealthy buyers in the Middle East!
      If you choose not to believe me then maybe conduct some of your own research – the evidence is well documented for all to read!!!

  3. Still coming out with the tens of thousands per egg line?..that may indeed be what the buyers in Arabia pay for a wild taken, acclimatised and fully trained peregrine…but the thief in the UK, at most, gets a couple of hundred pounds. A nice little earner if you rob a few nests but you need to be part of a network involving international criminals. We found that your local petty thief,being not too bright would read such headlines, rob a nest and then find no one wanted his loot…result?..yet another failed nest…Concentrate on the real big problem, persecution on grouse moors and killing by some pigeon fanciers.

    1. “Concentrate on the real big problem, persecution on grouse moors and killing by some pigeon fanciers.”

      So you disagree with the warning issued by the Suffolk Rural Crime Team… on the grounds that the issuing of a warning about egg theft somehow ‘distracts’ from crime in the northern uplands, hundreds of miles away, or the crimes of pigeon racers who kill Peregrins.

  4. There are several aspects that don’t ring true.
    The difficulty of stealing the eggs and keeping them viable in transport. Half will be worth very little as there is no demand for males.
    Falcon racing is dominated by certain breeders and it is their names that are proudly shouted with the results not someone with an illegal wild peregrine.
    If this a profitable scam then, of I were doing it, I would just buy eggs from a breeder and pass them off as wild. How would they know the difference. They obviously have no morals.
    When all the races are being won by captive bred birds why pay to take the chance on an unknown quantity random wild egg that has an embryo that has possibly been compromised during incubation.
    Ok, I expect it does happen because there are stupid people out there but I doubt it is a big problem and I seriously doubt the £70000 price tag being achieved very often if ever given this year’s prices of £2000 – £4000 for female peregrines.

    1. “There are several aspects that don’t ring true.”

      About a warning? So you think this warning about Peregrine egg theft is a fake?

      “If this a profitable scam then, of I were doing it, I would just buy eggs from a breeder and pass them off as wild. How would they know the difference.”

      And it has never occurred to you that a social elite with access to vast riches have no means of establishing DNA records?

      “When all the races are being won by captive bred birds why pay to take the chance on an unknown quantity random wild egg that has an embryo that has possibly been compromised during incubation.”

      Have you never heard of inbreeding or genetic diversity drift with small captive-breeding populations, resulting in decreased disease resistance and reduced potential for responding to environmental change etc?

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