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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 21:41 GMT
Rare egg hoard seized
Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine falcon eggs were among the massive haul
Investigators from the RSPB have recovered what they describe as one of the biggest collections of eggs and animals in the UK.

Nearly 1,000 eggs and 100 stuffed rare birds and animals were discovered following a raid on a house in Workington, Cumbria, early on Wednesday morning.

Cumbria Police said a man was arrested and later released on bail, and that their investigation into the seizure was continuing.

The eggs, from wild birds such as the peregrine falcon and the black-throated and red-throated diver, were discovered in the loft, wall cavities and sheds of the house.

'Threat to species'

Grahame Madge, spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), told BBC News Online: "Some of these eggs are incredibly rare in this country.

"This is a significant seizure, and we would only expect to have a handful of operations of this size a year.

"Egg collecting poses a threat to many of our rare species, and is thought to be connected to the decline of many of our species."

Animals found in the Cumbrian haul were peregrines, merlins, honey buzzards and marsh harriers, as well as stuffed or frozen badgers, otters, red squirrels and Scottish wild cats.

Exhibits now taken by police for examination are thought to include Schedule One birds, a category of rare birds as identified by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

'Breakthrough seizure'

The RSPB will now catalogue the animals and eggs found in the raid.

Mark Thomas, investigations officer for the charity, said: "This is a very, very big seizure. We are very happy with it because it is a breakthrough in this area.

"We have brought the exhibits back to a police storage room and the room is just full of dead birds of prey."

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act - brought in earlier this year allows for anybody convicted of collecting rare birds' eggs could be jailed for up to six months, or fined 5,000 per egg.

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