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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Thieves raid osprey nests
Osprey chick
There are about 140 pairs of ospreys in Scotland
Two osprey nests have been cleared of all their eggs by thieves, police have confirmed.

Security at the nests in Perthshire had been tightened, but the raiders still managed to commit a crime which has been described as an "outrage" by Tayside Police.

Coils of razor wire placed around the nests near Dunkeld were bypassed by thieves, who struck last Wednesday or Thursday.

The wire had been put in place around the trees holding the nests following similar thefts in the past.

Osprey chick
The osprey is a rare breeding bird

One pair of the birds has now completely abandoned its nest. The second pair is still in the area, but is said to be in great distress.

Experts have warned it is not possible for the birds to lay again this season to replace the eggs that have been stolen.

Tayside Police have promised that its officers will be working in co-operation with forces north and south of the border to trap the egg collectors believed to be responsible.

Inspector Gordon Nicoll, a police wildlife liaison officer, said: "It is an outrage that this small group of egg thieves continues to view the natural heritage of Scotland as something to plunder for their personal gratification."

The osprey population has been growing in Scotland in recent years, but only numbers around only 120 pairs and have often been targeted by criminals.

Their eggs have no monetary value and will have been taken by egg thieves for their own collections.

Police have been working with local landowners, farmers and gamekeepers as well as members of the public to crack down on thefts.

Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart says more people are going to court

Tayside Police have been part of a nationwide operation against nest robbers called Operation Easter.

Police wildlife and environment officer Alan Stewart said: "Through Operation Easter, more and more of these criminals are now finding themselves in court, though we are unfortunate in Scotland in that as yet, unlike in England and Wales, they cannot be jailed.

"We cannot ignore the possibility that because of this anomaly, Scotland may now be seen by egg collectors as a soft option."

The Scottish Executive says it has no immediate plans to change the law, although it has been consulting interested parties for the past year.

Eggs of rare birds found in Scotland, such as the white-tailed sea eagle, golden eagle, chough, osprey and Slavonian grebe, are highly prized by collectors.

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"The stolen eggs are almost certainly intended for a private collection"
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' Dave Dick
"We need a better legal deterrent"
See also:

04 Apr 02 | England
Bird-watching Big Brother style
29 Mar 02 | Scotland
Police uncover osprey eggs
23 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Rare osprey photo call
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