Wildlife Crime – Man Jailed for Abseiling Down Cliff to Steal Peregrine Falcon Eggs

A man who abseiled down a quarry cliff face to steal peregrine falcon eggs has been sentenced to 18 weeks in jail.

Christopher Wheeldon, from Darley Dale, Derbyshire, took the eggs from Bolsover Moor Quarry on April 23 last year. The eggs, which can be sold for thousands of pounds in the Middle Eastern avian market, were taken to order.

District Judge Stephen Flint condemned Wheeldon’s actions as “deplorable.”

Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court heard on Monday that a hidden wildlife camera captured Wheeldon abseiling down the cliff to retrieve the eggs. The footage also showed an adult falcon guarding the nest, which contained three eggs, fleeing in panic as Wheeldon approached.

Wheeldon, assisted by another person who was not arrested, was identified by Derbyshire Police after investigators from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) showed them the footage.

The RSPB suspects the eggs would have been hatched in an incubator and the birds sold as captive reared, which is legal. RSPB investigator Tom Grose commented on the prevalence of such incidents, noting that this was the third case captured on camera in recent years.

Wheeldon, 34, pleaded guilty to disturbing the nest of a protected wild bird and taking eggs. He also admitted to failing to surrender to police and court bail for an earlier appearance and several shoplifting offences.

During sentencing, the district judge stated, “Seemingly, even the birds are not beyond your thieving grasp. You may conceive of these as just eggs, but they are protected. This was a deplorable thing to do.”

The judge also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the equipment used to take the eggs.

PC Emma Swales from the Derbyshire Police rural crime team said, “It’s not very often we get a conviction, let alone a sentence, so it’s very positive for us. Derbyshire is a hotspot for this.