By Kevin Heath
Teeside Crown Court has given a taxidermist who traded illegally in endangered bird species a conditional discharge and a £300 fine. Lee Yafano, 41 years of Glenfield Drive, Middlesbrough, traded stuffed birds of prey on ebay and claimed that the items came with the required permits.
Officers from the National Wildlife Crimes Unit and Cleveland Police monitored ebay and monitored a seller, Yafano, who was selling species covered by CITES Annex A species which required a permit – Article 10 – for trade to take place.
Yafano knew about the requirements but intentionally ignored the needs for permits
Police raided Yafanos home on 12th November 2012 and discovered a live auction underway for a stuffed Kestral. The species is covered by Annex A and Yafano needed a Article 10 permit for the commercial trade in the item but did not have one even though he advertised the bird as coming with the required permit. The permit that was photographed with the bird belonged to another person and covered a different species.
Police found records for a sale of a Western Screech Owl which while not being on Annex A is covered by strict export regulations. The notice on the ebay auction for the bird showed that it had been bought by a buyer in the United States. There was no record of Yafano having applied for any export permits for the owl.
UK police then contacted their counterparts in the US Fish and Wildlife Service who visited the American buyer. They discovered a major collection of over 150 stuffed birds which were being held illegally.
The case had been listed for a 3 day trail at Teeside Crown Court, however yesterday Yafano pleaded guilty to:
- Prohibited offering for sale the kestrel contrary to Control in Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997
- Fraud by misrepresentation contrary to Fraud Act 2006
- Fraudulent evasion of export restriction contrary to Customs and Excise Management Act 1979
He pleaded not guilty to two other offences relating to fraud and the sale of a tawny owl, which were ordered to ‘lie on the file’ and a further offence relating to the possession of a Red Kite was remitted back to the Magistrates Court.
The court was told that Yafano was well aware of the legal requirements for permits and hadn’t applied for permits in an attempt to increase his profit margin.
Yafano was given a conditional discharge for 12 months for the ‘prohibited offering for sale’ a kestrel and the associated fraud. He was fined £300 for the evasion of export restrictions in relation to the Screech owl. Yafano was also ordered to pay £715 costs and victim surcharge (total £1015).
Following the case Andy McWilliam for the NWCU said, “It was clear that Mr. Yafano was well aware of the legal requirements and records show that he had applied for numerous permits in the past. His applications reduced significantly after 2009, which coincided with DEFRA introducing cost recovery charges. Unlike most bona fide taxidermists, Mr. Yafano seemed more interested in his profit margin than complying with the law. In conservation terms, the legislation is vital and it is aimed at controlling trade that if unchecked would put species at risk. It is not for individuals to pick and choose when they should and shouldn’t comply. I am sure Mr.Yafano now realises this”.