Borders antiques dealer fined £1,000 for trying to sell tiger’s head and claws

Richard Wales.
Richard Wales.

A conservation consultant and antiques dealer has been fined £1,000 for offering parts of endangered animals for sale over the internet.

Richard Wales tried to sell a tiger’s head, tiger claws and a leopard’s claw via adverts on the Gumtree and eBay websites.

The tiger's head fixed to a wall at the Newtown home of Richard Wales.'Photo courtesy of the Crown Office.

The tiger's head fixed to a wall at the Newtown home of Richard Wales.'Photo courtesy of the Crown Office.

The 49-year-old was told by a sheriff that his chances of ever getting another job in conservation are now non-existent.

Wales pleaded guilty at Jedburgh Sheriff Court to four breaches of the 1997 control of trade in endangered species regulations.

The tiger’s head, valued at £3,200, was mounted on a wooden shield fixed to a wall at his home in Tweedside Road, Newtown.

It was seized by police during a raid of his home in September 2015, and sheriff Peter Paterson yesterday ordered that it be forfeited.

Depute fiscal Fiona Caldwell said the tiger’s head had been removed from a tiger rug dating back to the 1930s.

It was identified by experts from the Animal and Plant Health Agency as the same head seen in a Gumtree advert.

She also explained that the tiger and leopard claws could not be sold without a licence from the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs known as an article 10 certificate.

Wales had advertised three tiger claws for sale for £120, a large tiger claw from the 1930s at £55 and an Indian leopard claw from 1937 at £20, but they failed to find buyers.

Defence lawyer Robert More said his client currently works as an antiques dealer, mainly selling antique swords, and makes around £600 a month on average.

He explained that the animal parts came from rugs dating from the 19th century or early 20th century, adding: “It would be very easy to come to the conclusion that this involves someone involved in hunting or poaching, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“He is a conservation biologist and has spent his entire working life in that field.”

Sheriff Paterson imposed fines of £250 for each of the four charges.

He told Wales: “I don’t doubt that the effect of this prosecution means that gaining employment in the conservation field now are nil.”

After the case, assistant procurator fiscal Laura Buchan, of the Crown Office’s specialist wildlife crime unit, said: “This illegal trade has a harmful effect on the conservation status of tigers and contributes to their decline in the wild.

“Richard Wales has failed in his responsibilities and, as a result, stands convicted of a criminal offence.

“It is vitally important that those in the antiques trade fully understand the legislation, as well as taking seriously their obligations in respect of the trade in items from endangered species.”

Lou Hubble, head of Police Scotland’s national wildlife crime unit, added: “International legislation exists to protect animals in danger of extinction from trade.

“It is recognised that trading in such animal parts and derivatives can endanger the few remaining species left in the wild, and that has resulted in global preventative action.

“It is therefore incumbent on everyone, wherever they may live, to ensure they abide by the law in order to protect the dwindling stocks of rare animals left on the planet.”

After the hearing, Wales, a former red squirrel conservation officer for the south of Scotland, declined to comment on the case.