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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2005, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Stuffed owl seller lands in court
A snowy owl
The snowy owl is an endangered species
A man prosecuted for selling a stuffed Snowy Owl on the internet was the victim of bureaucracy gone mad, a court has been told.

Steven Harper, 44, from Hightown, Merseyside, admitted not having the certificate required to sell an endangered species.

He was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay 65 costs.

A Merseyside Police wildlife officer said the legislation offered protection "whether an animal is alive or dead".

Mr Harper sold the bird to a mystery bidder for 300 on the internet auction site eBay.

Like John Cleese's parrot, the owl was dead, deceased, moribund and in fact, it no longer existed, it had expired
Michael Brahams, solicitor

He told officials he had no idea that by selling the stuffed creature, which was gathering dust in his attic, he was breaking the Control of Trade in Endangered Species regulations.

Solicitor Michael Brahams said: "Some eagle-eyed officer noticed it advertised and realised it was in contravention of the regulations.

"This is a serious matter and it is not a case where my client does not care a hoot.

"But, rather like John Cleese's parrot, the owl was dead, deceased, moribund and in fact, it no longer existed, it had expired."

France home

He added: "This case is, quite frankly, bureaucracy gone mad."

The owl was originally on show in a dress shop owned by Mr Harper's wife but was put in the loft after the shop closed in 1968.

Mr Harper decided to sell the bird after searching his home for items to sell on eBay to raise money for a new home in France.

Pc Andy McWilliam, Merseyside Police wildlife officer, said: "The legislation is in place to protect endangered species. It does not ban the trade but controls it.

"The legislation is there to protect species whether an animal is alive or dead."

Web trade threat to rare species
15 Aug 05 |  Science/Nature
Rare owl aids conservation plan
20 Aug 04 |  Bristol/Somerset


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