Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS)
22 March 2012
District court sentences nest robbers to a 2 year suspended jail term
Rare bird nests throughout Europe plundered – Judge: “Mafia-like structures”
Münster, NRW. Two bird traders from the North-Rhine Westphalian town of Metelen were today found guilty of taking birds and eggs from the wild and were each sentenced to a 2 year suspended jail sentence and were ordered to pay costs amounting to 95,000 Euros. In addition both men will have to carry out 250 hours of community service. The 9th criminal court accepted the prosecution’s case that the 59 and 63 year old accused had taken birds from the wild over a number of years and declared them as captive-bred birds. They were later sold on the internet at a vast profit. The Bonn-based Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), which had filed official complaints against the men, greeted the court’s ruling and spoke of the grave environmental damage inflicted on nature by the self-titled breeders. Their downfall was finally brought about by a raid carried out by the state CID in August 2007, during which some 270 protected birds were found and seized on the premises of one of the accused. Other evidence secured included numerous maps marked with the breeding sites of rare bird species, mist nets and mobile incubators.
According to CABS spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld, the men travelled around Europe in order to rob the nests of rare species. Their robberies of chicks and eggs included sites in Austria, Greece, Norway and Spain, as well as along the German North Sea and Baltic coasts. In addition, there was evidence that suggested that the pair also visited nature reserves in Hungary and the Münsterland region to steal eggs. “In order to smuggle the eggs and chicks back to their home base in Metelen, the men used specially converted vehicles with incubators hidden under a false floor” stated Hirschfeld.
In his closing address to the court Björn Ohström, representing the public prosecutor, emphasized the leading role played by both of the accused in the German ‘nest-robbing’ system. In his judgment the senior judge spoke of “mafia-like structures”. CABS commented that most of the birds illegally taken from the wild were advertised and sold as captive-bred birds via the internet platform 'Vogelnetzwerk.de’. The species seized included terns, curlews, plovers, sandpipers, lapwings, snipes, Red-necked Phalaropes and Ruffs. An expertise commissioned by the court established that the majority of the birds had been taken from the wild, ‘legalized’ with false rings and documents forged by the accused, and sold for up to 400 Euros per bird. Hirschfeld comments: “This case has demonstrated that elements of the bird collecting scene in Germany use highly criminal methods in order to replenish their bird stocks and conduct their egoistic hobby”. CABS therefore demand that the authorities conduct stricter checks of bird breeders. The organisation accuse the responsible local authorities and the operators of ‘Vogelnetzwerk.de’ of grave negligence. “In view of the fact that the species offered for sale were extremely rare and the number of successful captive-bred birds high, suspicion should have fallen on the accused much earlier. The case, which finally came to an end today, was initiated by bird conservationists who were highly distrustful of the incredible breeding success of the Metelen duo. Throughout the court case the accused insisted that they had bred all the birds themselves, and only gave up this indefensible line and pleaded guilty on the ninth day of the hearing due to the weight of evidence against them.
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