The Pablo Escobar of falcon eggs

The kingpin of the trade in rare birds has been jailed. The prize for any successor will be great.

942-eagle-634

The eggs of rare eagles can fetch up to £100,000

Like the late American president Theodore Roosevelt, I've always been a great believer in taking an active approach to animal conservation. Indeed, the walls of my modest abode are covered with the heads of the animals that I've "conserved" over the years during various safaris, hunts, expeditions and other ventures into the great outdoors. So, I can do little but tip my hat to Jeffrey Lendrum, known as the "Pablo Escobar of the falcon egg trade", who has "been jailed for three years on smuggling charges", as John Simpson reports in The Times. Last year he was caught at Heathrow with "falcon and kestrel eggs strapped to his torso with bandages". If hatched, "the birds would have fetched £100,000".

Lendrum claims that he was only smuggling them to save them for humanity as their natural habitat is being destroyed. Experts dispute this, arguing the species he was stealing were not in any imminent danger. They say he was saving them for himself or more accurately, his bank account with many of them "thought to have been destined for clients in the Middle East, where falconry and collections of birds of prey are popular".

Falling "fowl" of the law

Lendrum is now behind bars, but the potential rewards mean that many are likely to follow in his footsteps. Devotees of falconry are willing to "pay dearly for rare birds", says Joshua Hammer for Outside Online. "In Doha, Qatar, for example, a man reportedly paid $250,000 on the legal market for a pure white gyrfalcon, the world's largest raptor and a bird so prized for its power and beauty that medieval kings used to hunt with them." As one retired expert puts it bluntly, "if there is a $50,000 bill flying around, someone is going to try to catch it".

Interpol estimates that the illegal wildlife trade is worth as much as $20bn a year, making it one of "the world's most lucrative black markets". Notable busts included the 2009 interception of a British pet-shop owner caught "trying to smuggle a thousand large Amazonian spiders out of the country in his suitcases" and the 2017 rescue of "two dozen critically endangered yellow-crested cockatoos that a smuggler had stuffed inside water bottles". Many songbird devotees have been known to "dope the birds with rum and stuff them inside hair curlers" in an attempt to get them out of their native Guyana. Let's hope they don't end up as jailbirds.

Recommended

2013 Castelnau de Suduiraut: a thoroughly delicious sweetie from Bordeaux
Wine

2013 Castelnau de Suduiraut: a thoroughly delicious sweetie from Bordeaux

A juicy, honeyed, orange-blossom theme combined with neat acidity make this a thoroughly delicious wine.
23 Apr 2021
Three underwater experiences for the adventurous traveller
Travel and holidays

Three underwater experiences for the adventurous traveller

Sleeping with the fishes in the Great Barrier Reef; fine dining under the Indian Ocean; and snorkelling among artworks in the Med.
23 Apr 2021
Houses for sale for around £500,000
Houses for sale

Houses for sale for around £500,000

From a 17th-century, timber-framed house in Staffordshire, to a house with a post office, shop and licensed tea room in a prime tourist area close to …
23 Apr 2021
2019 Howard’s Folly: a far from foolish vinous venture
Wine

2019 Howard’s Folly: a far from foolish vinous venture

This is one of the most arresting Portuguese whites I have ever tasted, says Matthew Jukes.
16 Apr 2021

Most Popular

China owns a lot more gold than it’s letting on – and here’s why
Gold

China owns a lot more gold than it’s letting on – and here’s why

In a world awash with money-printing, a currency backed by gold would have great credibility. And China – with designs on the yuan becoming the world’…
21 Apr 2021
“Joke” cryptocurrency dogecoin goes to the moon. What’s going on?
Bitcoin

“Joke” cryptocurrency dogecoin goes to the moon. What’s going on?

Dogecoin – a cryptocurrency created as a joke – has risen by more than 9,000% this year alone. Saloni Sardana looks at how something that began as an …
19 Apr 2021
House prices in the UK are still surging – here’s why it’ll probably continue
Property

House prices in the UK are still surging – here’s why it’ll probably continue

The latest UK house price data shows no letup in the country’s booming property market, with the biggest yearly rise since 2014. And there’s no end in…
22 Apr 2021