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Man jailed for selling wildlife specimens

PUBLISHED: 10:33 02 July 2010 | UPDATED: 11:46 08 July 2010

A NORFOLK man who flouted strict regulations to protect endangered species has started a nine-month jail sentence after he was caught offering banned wildlife specimens, including rhino horns, for sale on eBay.

A NORFOLK man who flouted strict regulations to protect endangered species has started a nine-month jail sentence after he was caught offering banned wildlife specimens, including rhino horns, for sale on eBay.

Mark Rowland of Orford Road, Swaffham, had been prosecuted in the past for similar offences back in 2005 when he made thousands of pounds by selling stuffed animals on the eBay internet auction site.

Norwich Crown Court heard that this time Rowland was caught out after police officers had become suspicious after calling at his address about an unrelated matter. When his computer was investigated it was found that he had been trying to sell endangered species over the internet, including offering to sell a rhino horn for 3000 dollars to a man in Florida.

Rowland appeared for sentence last week after admitting six offences of selling and offering for sale, endangered species.

Rowland, 24, admitted selling rhino horns contrary to regulations on July 26, 2007 and September 10, 2007.

He also admitted selling a stuffed northern hen harrier on October 11, 2007 and offering for sale a stuffed barn owl on April 13, 2008.

He also admitted buying a stuffed long-eared owl on August 9, 2008 and selling a wildcat head on February 1, 2009.

The court heard the offences put him in breach of a suspended sentence he was given in 2005.

Nicholas Hall, prosecuting, said that Rowland was not selling relics from an old collection but items which were much more recent, and which did not have the correct paperwork, designed to protect the endangered species. He said items like rhino horn could fetch high prices in the Far East, while the wildcat, which is found living in Scotland, is also under threat, with only about 400 pure bred wild cats surviving.

Jailing him and imposing a three-year trading ban, Judge Alasdair Darroch told Rowland that he accepted he did not wish to see any of the endangered species disappear but by offering items like this for sale he undermined their protection.

“These creatures need protection and one of the protections is the legislation system, which is backed up by criminal sanctions.”

William Carter, for Rowland said: “There has never been a suggestion that he is somehow involved himself in the removal of animals from the wild.”

He said that his interest was in taxidermy and species like barn owls sadly got killed on roads.

“There is no prohibition in stuffing such creatures for your own interest but you cannot then sell them.”

“His interest is in taxidermy and he has been for many years. He is not a commercial trader in any proper sense of the word.”

He said although items like rhino horn ended up in the Far East where they could fetch huge sums, Rowland only sold them at a fraction of the cost.

He said since this latest conviction he had now got rid of most of his collection apart from a stuffed fox.

After the case, Alan Roberts, investigative support officer of the specialist UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, who worked with Norfolk police on the case, said he was pleased at the outcome of the case and hoped it sent out a message that these matters were taken seriously.

Mr Roberts said that offering items like this for sale fuelled the market: “It is creating an issue where people go out and kill the species for the market.”

He said there was an enormous market in the Far East for rhino horns and said: “Although he has only made a fraction of what can be gained it still enables someone else to take advantage of the big price. The knock on of course is that rhinos are being killed in the wild because they are worth a lot of money.”

He said that the wild cat and hen harrier were also both in danger of becoming extinct.

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