Baltic sea on a stormy day with heavy rain falling on coastal headland, Gellort, Cape Arkona, Rugen island, Germany's most northerly point, Mecklenberg-Vorpommern, Germany

UK Border Agency

Customs officers may work with the police or organisations like the RSPB in investigating cases involving specimens which have been illegally imported or sold.

UK Border Agency

Customs’ cases may involve native or exotic species and the crime may take the form of permit fraud or smuggling to evade CITES or health controls.  

Customs staff around the UK can draw on the specialist knowledge and experience of a national network of Customs Wildlife and Endangered Species Officers (CWESO) and the CITES Centre of Operational Expertise based at Heathrow Airport. There is also a National CITES Intelligence Co-ordinator and an HQ policy branch.

The Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (CEMA) regulates the import and export of goods between the UK and abroad. Under CEMA anything which is being taken into or out of the UK contrary to any legislation in force may be liable to forfeiture. 

Consequently, whereas CITES is implemented in the EU by the Wildlife Trade Regulations, customs’ enforcement action is taken under CEMA, where a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment and an unlimited fine is available to the courts.

Controls cover not only live birds, but parts and derivatives including eggs, skins, plumage and stuffed specimens. Officers may find themselves dealing with offences involving the illegal export of peregrine eggs and chicks, the smuggling of birds such as Lear's macaws and red-tailed black cockatoos, or the evasion of import bans on birds such as wild African grey parrots. 

Officers may also come across licensing irregularities in the ostrich meat trade or encounter smuggled bushmeat from West Africa. Fraud can also involve wild-caught specimens claimed to be captive-bred, such as grey junglefowl feathers imported to make flies for the angling industry.

 Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus, perched on hotel roof, Manchester city centre

How you can help

Poisoned bird of prey

Have you seen a crime against a wild bird? Use this form to report a wildlife crime to us.