Operation Easter: UK police target bird egg thieves

Press release from the National Wildlife Crime Unit:

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 25 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.

In recent years the operation has also been expanded to cover some emerging trends of criminal behaviour such as 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.

[Part of the illegal egg collection of prolific egg thief Matthew Gonshaw, who targeted the nests of golden eagles, ospreys, red kites and peregrines before being jailed for a fourth time for his crimes]

Chief Inspector Kevin Kelly (Head of the NWCU) says: “Operation Easter is a yearly event that is ingrained within wildlife crime policing. 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 dialling 101 – ask to speak to a wildlife crime officer if possible. Nesting will be in full swing in 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


8 thoughts on “Operation Easter: UK police target bird egg thieves”

  1. I’m all for action against egg theft. However, is it just me, or are the police only interested in certain types of wildlife crime i.e. not that committed on the behalf the landed gentry against raptors etc? You see widely advertised campaigns against egg theft, coursing by trespassers, but oddly not the most serious and organized wildlife crime i.e. the persecution of raptors by shooting interests.

    1. I agree completely.
      It’s not just illigal egg collecting. But the shooting of swans, geese and ducks.
      Poisoning of rapters, trapping bird cages, and illigal killing of foxes.

  2. No Stephen it’s not just you, I too have concerns about the police targeting selective types of crime. Grateful that they are keen to address egg theft but frustrated that others like illegal raptor persecution and hunting continue. WE must keep up the critical mass of community campaigning and whilst there are some who control main stream media we have social media which used wisely is a powerful tool.

  3. On a similar theme to earlier comments, but on a tangential issue, it irks me that several fairly prominent organisations campaign vigorously over the use of garden peat, yet ignore the annual burning of our uplands. I do wonder whether this is for similar prejudicial reasons?

  4. At present we are doing well that the police ( even a specialist wildlife unit ) will address it at all – so lets avoid being negative and just assist them deal with the pillocks that think that such actions are acceptable.

  5. In February 2022 an article in the Economist highlighted that “the market for falcons is soaring as wild populations decline”.
    Part of the problem appears fuelled by demand in the Middle East.
    I understand there is growing demand for wild birds as these are believed to be superior to birds bred in captivity.
    All of this is a well known issue, something that is talked about and discussed, but nothing ever seems to be done to actually drive down the demand for wild birds or their eggs.

    Some thoughts to ponder on –

    The moral issue- Just what sort of species have humans become when they will drive another species to extinction just to feed their vanity and greed?

    We also see this problem with other endangered species such as Tigers, Elephants, Rhino’s and Pangolins to name just a few.
    It would appear that this trade in endangered species is linked to growing economic growth in the Middle and Far East, which enriches certain sections of the populations, who then have surplus wealth to spend on things that previously were unaffordable- ivory, tiger bone products, pangolin scales, falcons, rhino horn etc.

    It is also apparent that governments in those countries seem powerless to stop the growing demand for these products. It is no good just implementing – bred in captivity programs, when the demand is for the real genuine wild species, because the consumer sees the wild version as superior and more desirable.

    Whilst countries in the developed west have legislated to try and protect wildlife and carefully regulate the trade in endangered species, we are also a source of the problem.
    It is our demand for oil and cheaply manufactured goods through a global world market which has rapidly enriched the countries which supply us with such goods, and has created within some of those countries the increasing market for endangered species or products from endangered species.
    The war in the Ukraine has perhaps highlighted the need to carefully considered just exactly who we trade with, and whether those trading partners have values similar to our own.
    Perhaps western governments should look far more carefully at just who they sign trade deals with, and demand that within those agreements are structures to ensure that the flow of western money doesn’t become a source of revenue to destroy the natural world and nature- something which our governments claim to care about, but then seem to conveniently forget when it comes to economic growth.

    Whilst governments in the west will never have control of the money once it has arrived in a foreign country, the situation with Russian gas has highlighted that even when we realise that western money is being spent on something we know is wrong, we seem very reluctant to cease trading and stop the money being spent on whatever it is we disagree with.

    So whilst it is comforting to read about Operation Easter, the long term solution will only really be found when there is no longer a market for the eggs, or the birds taken from the wild, and I can’t see that happening anytime soon.

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