A hefty reward has been offered for information leading to the conviction of the thief who stole the eggs from a colony of rare and threatened seabird on the North East coast.
The RSPB and Teesmouth Bird Club are offering a £2,000 reward for vital information following the theft of the little tern eggs from Crimdon Beach in County Durham in the early hours of June 19.
More than 50 little tern eggs were stolen overnight from the site where 65 pairs of the birds had been nesting.
The crime horrified local volunteers from the Little Tern Project, which is funded by Teesside’s Industry Nature Conservation Association to protect the site.
At the time, Niall Benson, Durham Heritage Coast officer, said the theft could have a catastrophic impact on the colony of one of Britain’s rarest seabirds, even leading to the fragile group’s extinction.
Last year, the site had 105 pairs of birds and they did not raise any chicks, which Mr Benson said meant a generation had been lost.
This year there were 65 pairs before the theft and Mr Benson worried that next year the numbers could be down again, perhaps even as low as 25.
Following the theft, some of the birds flew to another breeding ground on the Humber, but fortunately, enough remained to lay eggs and hopefully ensure the future of the nest site.
Alistair McLee of Teesmouth Bird Club said: “The club members were outraged to discover this financially motivated theft. This attractive and locally-rare species has enough problems to contend with while breeding, without this criminal action.
“The dark ages of egg theft are still with us, threatening our local wildlife heritage.”
The birds fly from Africa each year to breed at Crimdon and they nest on the beach, just above the high water line.
The prefer sand and shingle, often using public beaches, which means they are susceptible to human disturbance as well as vulnerable to attack from predators .
Stealing wild bird eggs carries a maximum six-month custodial sentence and/or a £5,000 fine.
Anyone with information should contact Durham Police on 101 and quote incident number DHM19/06/2013-0202. Alternatively, call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.