How jailed SA smuggler could have helped to save rare birds
Eggs of rare vultures seized from the 'Pablo Escobar of the falcon egg trade' have now hatched
The activities that saw an SA wildlife smuggler jailed for three years in January may end up helping to save some of the endangered species he targeted.
The International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP), in the UK, has hatched the eggs of three rare vultures that were seized from Jeffrey Lendrum when he arrived in London from SA in 2018.
The smuggler dubbed the “Pablo Escobar of the falcon egg trade” had 19 rare eggs worth more than R2m strapped to his body.
Cape vultures were declared an endangered species in 2015, and although the chicks in the Gloucestershire centre have been reared by hand and can live only in captivity, there are hopes that their offspring will eventually be released in Southern Africa.
The eggs Lendrum attempted to smuggle into the UK have also produced five African fish eagles, eight African black sparrowhawks and two African hawk-eagles, all of which have been raised into young adults.
ICBP director Jemima Parry-Jones, who was a witness at Lendrum’s Snaresbrook Crown Court trial, told The Times: “On June 26 we had a call from customs saying they had stopped someone at Heathrow with 19 fertile eggs strapped to his body.
“Two had already hatched by the time we got there and one black sparrowhawk was broken in Lendrum’s body pouch.
“An African fish eagle died three days after hatching due to a yolk infection so we were left with 17 birds altogether. We collected them in a portable incubator and brought them back to an incubator at the centre until they started to hatch.
“They were then fed three times a day and weighed. Now they have grown, the birds are fed once a day.”
Lendrum, 56, who has SA and Irish passports, has wildlife transgressions spanning decades. Documenting his life of crime, Outside magazine in the US said he had gone as far as hiring helicopters to access raptors’ nests as far afield as Patagonia in Argentina, and Quebec, Canada.
When he was bust with 14 eggs at Birmingham Airport in 2010, Lendrum told investigators they were from ducks and said his “physiotherapist had recommended that he wear the eggs pressed against his belly to force him to keep his muscles taut and strengthen his lower back”.
ICBP curator Holly Cale said the Cape vultures were a first at the centre. “It’s something that is likely to attract a lot of interest once visitors get to know about them,” she said.