Europe and Central Asia
17 Nov 2014

Egg collector is sent to jail with the collaboration of BirdLife's Bulgaria and UK partners

16 eggs were seized from the appartment in Burgas, Bulgaria. Photo by G. Shorrock
By Alessia Calderalo

When Jan Frederick Ross first moved from his native England to Bulgaria in 2004 escaping justice, he believed that continuing his illicit activities in the Balkan country would not cause him any problems. He kept collecting eggs illegally, disregarding the seriousness of the crime and the fact that sooner or later it could be uncovered.

But in December 2011, Ross’ seafront apartment in Burgas, Bulgaria, was raided by the police after some reports proved that he had not stopped his illegal activities.

Ross, formerly from Greater Manchester, had moved to Bulgaria ten years ago following a trio of criminal convictions for egg collecting in the UK. Suspecting that he had continued regardless, the Bulgarian police initiated an investigation with the support of Birdlife Partners in Bulgaria (BSPB) and the UK (RSPB). 16 bird eggs were discovered in his apartment. All of them had been gathered in 2011, including a Griffon Vulture’s egg, a threatened species in Bulgaria (60 pairs) that benefits from a high legal protection. Furthermore a selection of climbing equipment used to access cliff and tree nesting sites was also found during the raid.

The eggs of rare birds have previously been robed because of their value to egg collectors, a rare pastime in Bulgaria, but very popular in the recent past in the UK.  The eggs are emptied of their contents and stacked in collections, sometimes involving thousands of items.

BSPB started working on preventing these kinds of crimes – so called environmental crimes - years ago, as they realised that they were quite widespread and were undermining the organisation’s long-term efforts in the conservation of birds and wildlife in the country.

Dimitar Gradinarov, a Bird Crime Officer for BSPB, said: We are very grateful for the fantastic response from the police in Burgas and for the help from RSPB, who has years of experience dealing with such crimes.  We have been working incredibly hard to protect raptors like the Imperial Eagle, the Egyptian vulture, the Griffon Vulture and others birds in Bulgaria. It is very shocking to see how much damage a single man can do to rare breeding birds in our country. We hope that this case will emphasise the importance of tackling wildlife crimes in our country and will remind Bulgarian authorities (of) the need to have the necessary resources for this work”.

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For this crime, Ross has been sentenced, in 2014, by the Bulgarian Court to six months in prison, a three year suspension or probation period and a 5000 Lev (2,555 euros) fine.

The BirdLife community is happy to see how the combined efforts of the Partnership and legal authorities bring such positive results. We all hope that now they are aware of the risks they take, egg collectors and other environmental criminals will refrain from committing further infringements to nature protection laws.

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