Page last updated at 12:59 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 13:59 UK

Arrest after golden eagle death

Golden eagle
Golden eagle are one of the UK's largest birds of prey

A man has been questioned after the discovery of a dead golden eagle by police investigating the illegal trade in rare birds in Europe.

South Wales Police discovered the eagle at one of three properties searched in Gelli, Rhondda, after they were contacted by Belgian officers.

The arrested man was released on police bail while inquiries continue.

It is illegal to kill a golden eagle, or damage its nest, eggs or young under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The bird of prey is one of the largest in the UK and is afforded the highest legal protection level under the act.

Tests are being carried out to uncover how the bird died.

Illegal trading

The south Wales operation followed the arrest of two men in Belgium by police targeting people who take birds and eggs from the wild to "launder" them into the legitimate market.

Species trafficked can include eagles, falcons, hawks and vultures, which can be sold for vast sums of money when accompanied by fake papers.

A total of 137 birds were examined at the three locations in Wales, as part of the joint operation involving the Belgian Federal Police, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and Animal Health.

Blood and feather samples were taken from 50 of those birds, and have been sent for DNA analysis in order to identify potential false breeding claims or illegal trading.

Sgt Ian Guildford, of South Wales Police, said the laundering of wild birds into the captive market is not only illegal but can have serious environmental consequences.

"The searches in Rhondda were just part of the much wider crackdown on this activity that threatens the wellbeing of some of Europe's rarest birds," he added.

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