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Man arrested in birds theft probe

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Police have arrested a 22-year-old man in connection with the theft of 299 rare bird skins from the Natural History Museum.

On June 24 last year Hertfordshire Police officers were called to the museum on Akeman Street in Tring, which belongs to the better-known London museum, after receiving reports of a break-in.

It was subsequently discovered that 299 brightly-coloured stuffed birds were missing, believed stolen, from a collections area, a force spokesman said.

He added: “A man, aged 22 from the US, is currently in police custody. Police have recovered the majority of the bird skins.”

Speaking at the time, Professor Richard Lane, director of science at the museum, said all the stolen skins were from very colourful, ornate tropical birds.

He said they were mostly male trogons and quetzals from Central and South America as well as birds of paradise from the island of New Guinea.

In a video uploaded by Hertfordshire Police to YouTube, Prof Lane said: “The Natural History Museum collection of birds is one of the most important collections of birds in the world.

“Scientists and naturalists from all over the world come to study them. We have about 750,000 specimens of birds which is about 95% of all species of birds known.

“The particular birds that have been stolen are actually quite uncommon in nature and because they are uncommon in nature they are actually particularly uncommon in big research collections.

“A number of them are threatened with extinction so therefore losing this material, losing these specimens, we lose the opportunity to understand about birds that are threatened with extinction. That’s a tragic loss for the birds and it’s a tragic loss for us.”

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