Body parts of endangered birds were found after a police raid on a man who sold artefacts and trinkets for people interested in shamanism and paganism.
Gordon Taylor used a cupboard in his Inverness home as a workshop for his website – Wild Wizard Crafts – to make the items.
Using the name Kai Seidr, the 46-year-old had two barn owl heads in jam jars, a pendant made from a tawny owl foot and another artefact made from a buzzard wing.
He also had bags containing feathers from all three species, some of which were also made into items he wanted to sell online. All of them could have sold for a total of £695, Inverness Sheriff Court was told.
Yesterday, Taylor, whose address was given as Leyton Drive, Inverness, admitted possessing the specimens of the birds and keeping them for sale, contrary to the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations. He was fined £750.
Fiscal depute David Morton told Sheriff David Sutherland that Taylor faced either a fine or a maximum 12 months in prison for the offence.
He added that it was not suggested Taylor was responsible for the death of the birds.
He went on: “There is an international agreement between governments with its aim to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
“It is implemented by the EU and given effect in the UK by the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations, 1997.
“Species are classified according to the risk they face.” Mr Morton said that the three raptors were included on the Class A list of species threatened with extinction.
Two of the items found were a pendant containing a common buzzard feather and a buzzard wing. A wooden artefact contained a buzzard and a tawny owl feather.
Another pendant consisted of a tawny owl foot, plus a bag and two collections of tawny owl feathers and wings.
The most gruesome find were two Barn Owl heads in jam jars and two bags of Barn Owl feathers.
Defence solicitor Clare Russell said: “My client’s position is one of ignorance but it is no defence in law. He did not know about the required certificates to have these items.
“He is more that aware now of the legislation. He had purchased the various items to which he was not entitled and kept them for sale.”
She asked the Sheriff not to jail Taylor but to impose a fine.
Sheriff Sutherland told Taylor: “This is a quite reduced charge from what you originally faced. Given this and your absence of record in recent years, I will impose a financial penalty, but it is a serious matter.”
Laura Buchan, Assistant Procurator Fiscal, Specialist Casework, said: “I welcome this sentence and the message it sends to anyone involved in this illegal market.
“The existence of such a market drives persecution of these protected species. In addition the prosecution highlights to other commercial sellers that they need to understand the legislation and take seriously their obligations in respect of the international convention on the trade in endangered species of fauna and flora.”
Constable Mark Banks from the local Wildlife Crime Unit said: “This is a good example of partnerships coming together resulting in the positive outcome of the conviction of Gordon Taylor.
“Although this is an unusual case for the Highlands, it is a reminder that the internet is an active arena for wildlife crime.
“The online sale of items taken from protected wildlife species will only encourage persecution of these animals.
“Anybody who has concerns about items they see for sale which they think may be prohibited or illegal wildlife activity reference on dedicated websites or social media should contact Police Scotland or Crimestoppers.”
Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, said: “Quite rightly there are laws in place to regulate or restrict the trade in wildlife, whether it’s alive or dead. While we frequently hear horror stories from abroad about the smuggling of rhino horns or tiger skins, native wildlife is also covered by this legislation, and today’s conviction is a clear reminder of that. “