Man jailed after being filmed abseiling down Bolsover quarry to steal three peregrine falcon eggs

  • Christopher Wheeldon was filmed stealing the eggs on a secret camera set up by the RSPB

A man has been jailed after abseiling down a quarry cliff face to steal peregrine falcon eggs.

Christopher Wheeldon, 34, was caught on hidden cameras set up by the RSPB to protect the falcons as he abseiled down the limestone quarry near Bolsover in April 2023.

He was reported to police and later arrested, but the three eggs he stole were never able to be retrieved.

Wheeldon, of Wheatley Gardens, Two Dales, eventually pleaded guilty to intentionally disturbing peregrine falcons and taking the eggs.

He was jailed for eight weeks at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates' Court on two charges relating to the birds. He was also handed a further 10 weeks in prison for a number of shop thefts he committed after stealing the eggs.

Peregrine falcons are specially protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and have faced a range of threats, including shooting and poisoning by land managers across the country who run shooting events and want to prevent the birds they raise for sport being attacked by the falcons.

However, in this instance the RSPB says it is likely the eggs were stolen to order and sent to the overseas falconry trade. It says wild British peregrine falcons are regarded as being genetically superior and command high prices of tens of thousands of pounds.

Sgt Chris Wilkinson from Derbyshire Police said: “The nesting sites of these beautiful birds of prey are protected in law for a reason.

"Peregrines are an endangered species and groups, including the RSPB, have been working hard to ensure they are free from persecution and able thrive in Derbyshire."

Thomas Grose, an RSPB investigations officer, said: "Peregrine falcons represent the epitome of being wild and free and it is this very characteristic that makes them such a target for criminals involved in the illegal falconry trade, earning money from the laundering and trading of these birds overseas.

“The theft of Peregrine eggs and chicks has been a persistent threat to these birds in Derbyshire.

“I hope this sends the message that we are watching and will continue our efforts to protect these amazing birds of prey.”

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