A 25-year-old man has been jailed for two years and eight months at Preston Crown Court for stealing exotic birds worth over £53,000 plus two penguins from South Lakes Safari Zoo.
Bradley Tomes burgled the zoo, where he had previously worked for four years, overnight on two occasions in July and October 2018. He cut a hole in the fence and stole numerous exotic birds, including spoonbills, macaws and egrets from the tropical aviary. Other exotic birds escaped through that hole in the fence. He also stole two Humboldt penguins, native to the Pacific Coast of Chile and Peru, named Pablo and Penny from the penguin enclosure.
In January 2019 an exotic animal collector from Nottinghamshire contacted the police to report he had recently bought two penguins for £9,000 which were in poor health from a Facebook trader. Tomes drove to Nottinghamshire to refund the buyer and collect the penguins where police were waiting to arrest him. Staff from the zoo confirmed these were the stolen penguins.
Twelve Roseate spoonbills, valued at almost £20,000, which were part of the only collection of this breed in the UK have not been traced.
Wendy Evans for the CPS said “Bradley Tomes showed utter disregard to the wellbeing of the birds he stole from his previous employer for his own financial gain. In an attempt to avoid being caught, he begged the buyer not to contact police and tried to return the money he had received for the penguins.
“In police interview he denied committing the offences, but once faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, he pleaded guilty. This included clear evidence of him planning the thefts to order. He told police he had not attended the zoo in 2018, but ANPR and an eye witnesses, who knew him, proved he made a reconnaissance trip to the zoo, as well as being present on the days of the burglaries.
“We take crimes involving endangered animals and birds incredibly seriously and will take every step we can to secure convictions in these cases.”
A police spokesperson said: “Cumbria Constabulary take wildlife crimes extremely seriously.
“Tomes put the lives of the two penguins at risk, and he continued to deny the offences against him in interview.
“Thankfully the man who bought the penguins contacted vets due to their poor condition and reported the incident to police against the pleas of Tomes who offered to return the money.
“We would encourage anyone with concerns around wildlife crime to contact police, we are committed to tackling the problem and will seek to prosecute those who exploit our most endangered wildlife for their own gain.”
- Burglary other than dwelling
- Offer specimen of species listed in Annex A to Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 for sale x 2
- Transport specimen of species listed in Annex A to Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 for sale
- Prohibited movement for sale of a specimen covered by the control of trade in endangered species regulations x 2
- Prohibited offering for sale of a specimen – endangered species regulations