A US citizen has admitted stealing rare bird skins from the Natural History Museum.
Edwin Rist, 22, pleaded guilty to burglary and money laundering offences when he appeared at Hemel Hempstead Magistrates’ Court, police confirmed.
Hertfordshire Police said officers were called to the museum on Akeman Street in Tring, Herts, which belongs to the better-known London museum, after reports of a break-in on June 24 last year.
It was later found 299 brightly coloured bird skins were missing, believed stolen, from a collections area, a spokeswoman said.
She said the missing birds formed part of the nation’s natural history collection, assembled over the past 350 years. “The 70 million specimens looked after by the Natural History Museum are a resource of international importance in the development of scientific knowledge,” the spokeswoman said.
“The ornithological collections are amongst the most heavily used and are consulted by researchers throughout the world, who either visit Tring or request loans.
“The knowledge gleaned from these collections helps protect endangered species and answer questions about the biodiversity of the world around us.
“The stolen birds are a number of brightly coloured tropical birds, including Cotingas, Quetzals and Birds of Paradise, some of which are endangered species, irreplaceable and, therefore, of special scientific concern. The stolen specimens are therefore priceless.
“Police have recovered the majority of the bird skins, although some are still outstanding.”
Rist was granted bail until he is sentenced at St Albans Crown Court on January 14.