London

Heathrow border officers seize smuggled vulture chicks

Vulture chick Image copyright Border Force
Image caption The chicks and eggs are being looked after by specialists

Two newborn vultures and 17 eggs from rare or endangered species have been seized at Heathrow Airport.

Border Force officers found the eggs concealed in a body belt when they searched a man who had arrived on a flight from South Africa.

A 56-year-old Irish man was later arrested on suspicion of importation of prohibited items.

The eggs are from South African birds of prey including vultures, eagles, hawks and kites, the Border Force said.

Specialist officers identified that the eggs, found on Tuesday, were protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

Image copyright Border Force
Image caption Border Force officers found 19 eggs including the ones from the newly hatched chicks

Officers arranged for the chicks and eggs to be sent to the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre, where staff incubated the eggs.

The chicks and eggs have since been moved to a specialist facility.

Grant Miller, head of Heathrow's Cites team, said: "By preventing the smuggling attempt [the team] have also ensured that the birds and eggs received the immediate care and attention that they needed.

"The frontline work of my team is key to tackling the international illegal wildlife trade which does so much environmental damage and threatens the survival of endangered animals and plants."

The investigation has been passed to the National Crime Agency, the Border Force said.

The suspect has been bailed pending further inquiries.

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