No reprieve for Britain’s rarest birds

Matthew Gonshaw. (photo credit: Scottish RSPCA/PA )

Matthew Gonshaw. (photo credit: Scottish RSPCA/PA )

Sadly there will be no reprieve for some of Britain’s rarest birds next Spring as the UK’s most prolific egg stealer will be out of jail by then and free to continue his decimation of endangered birds.

Egg collector will be free by Spring breeding season.

This week Matthew Gonshaw, 49, from Bow, east London was sentenced yet again for stealing birds eggs. This time for 6 months. Sadly with good behaviour it means he will be free to continue his evil hobby just in time for next springs breeding season. Once again the courts in the UK have shown a total disregard for protecting wildlife in this country.

Weak wildlife sentences in UK just paying lip-service to conservation.

Again the developing nations are leading the way in environmental protection and wildlife conservation policies while Britain just pays lip service to it’s responsibilities.

In many developing countries if you deal or collect endangered species you can expect prison terms running into years and decades and they are not the cushy prisons of the UK. Commit a wildlife crime in the UK and there is no deterrent or punishment.

This was not Gonshaw’s first prison sentence for collecting rare eggs from nests in the wild. He has been sentenced on three previous occasions  for this crime and still he has returned to collecting eggs and killing chicks of our most endangered birds.

Time for wildlife crime sentences to increase to 10 years.

Not all the blame can be placed on the judge for this ineffective sentence for a compulsive wildlife killer. District Judge William Ashworth who metered out the punishment gave Gonshaw the current maximum sentence for the crime. It’s time to change the maximum sentence for wildlife crime in the UK from 6 months to 10 years to bring us in line with many other nations.

The numbers of eggs that Gonshaw took from the wild will impact on our bird populations for years. Investigators discovered almost 700 eggs in his collection – presumably a new collection he had rebuilt since his last collection of over 700 eggs was seized in 2005.

Schedule One species found in egg collection.

Within this bird egg collection were a several particularly rare species including bird of prey species. Investigators noted eggs from species such as dotterels, peregrines, red kites and even ospreys. Even golden eagle nests did not escape from Gonshaws activities. 45 eggs within his collection were from Schedule One species – specially protected birds because of their rarity.

Gonshaw also repeated returned to the same nests to remove eggs which meant that some nests failed to produce a new generation for a number of years. A number of the eggs he took from nests were also very close to hatching but Gonshaw still chose to take them and killed the chicks in the eggs.

When Gonshaws home was raided in June this year the police and RSPB investigators found the collection of eggs together with camouflage clothing, climbing ropes and equipment, maps and site maps of rare bird breeding sites.

Egg collector travelled across UK to steal bird eggs.

Gonshaw travelled the length and breadth of the UK in order to add rare bird eggs to his collection. He is known to have taken 5 golden Eagle eggs from Lewis in Scotland before travelling to Two Tree Island in Essex where he took 12 eggs from breeding avocets.

Gonshaw’s previous convictions includes:

  • 2001: fined £500 for raiding a golden eagles nest in the Outer Hebrides.
  • 2002: jailed for 3 months for stealing bird eggs.
  • 2004: fined £5,000 and jailed for 4 months  for raking eggs from a nest in Scotland.
  • 2005: jailed for 6 months for stealing more than 700 eggs.

It’s quite clear that for some people the current maximum sentence for stealing wild bird eggs of £5,000 and/or 6 months in prison is not enough. It’s certainly not enough for the rarest species who lose yet another generation of chicks. It’s time to boost the maximum prison term to 10 years.

Posted in Birds and tagged .
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