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Conservationist fined for trying to sell tiger head

The tiger's head is valued at £3,200 Photo: Crown Office

A conservation biologist has admitted offering parts of endangered animals for sale over the Internet.

Richard Wales tried to sell a tiger's head, tiger claws and a leopard claw with adverts on Gumtree and eBay.

The 49-year-old was told by a sheriff that as a result of the conviction his chances of being employed in the conservation field in the future were "nil."

He was fined a total of £1,000 at Jedburgh Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to four breaches of regulations designed to protect endangered species from illegal trade.

The tiger's head valued at £3,200 - which was mounted on a wooden shield and hanging on the wall of his home in Tweedside Road, Newtown St Boswells, which police raided in September 2015, - was forfeited.

Wales had advertised three tiger claws for sale for £120 Credit: Crown Office

Depute fiscal Fiona Caldwell said the tiger's head had been removed from a tiger rug which dated back to the 1930s.

It was identified by an expert from the Animal and Plant Health Agency(APHA), as the same head seen in the Gumtree advert.

She also explained that the tiger and leopard claws could not be sold without a licence from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) known as an Article 10 Certificate.

Wales had advertised three tiger claws for sale for £120, a large tiger claw from the 1930s at £55 and an Indian Leopard claw from 1937 at £20 but they failed to sell on his "the explorers study" online account.

Defence lawyer Robert More said his client currently worked as an antiques dealer mainly dealing with antique swords, with an average income of around £600 a month.

He explained the animal parts came from rugs dating from the 19th Century or early 20th Century and added: "It would be very easy to come to the conclusion that this involves someone involved in hunting or poaching but nothing could be further from the truth.

"He is a conservation biologist and has spent his entire working life in that field."

An Indian Leopard claw from 1937 that Wales advertised for £20 Credit: Crown Office

Sheriff Peter Paterson imposed fines of £250 for each of the four charges.

He said: "I don't doubt that the effect of this prosecution means that gaining employment in the conservation field now are nil."

After the case, assistant procurator fiscal Laura Buchan from the Crown Office specialist wildlife crime unit said: "This illegal trade has a harmful effect on the conservation status of tigers and contributes to their decline in the wild.

"Richard Wales has failed in his responsibilities and as a result stands convicted of a criminal offence.

"It is vitally important that those in the antiques trade fully understand the legislation as well as take seriously their obligations in respect of the trade in items from endangered species."

After the hearing Wales - a former Red Squirrel Conservation Officer for the South of Scotland - declined to comment on the case.