'It is devastating' - heartbreak as rare bird eggs stolen from Norfolk beach
PUBLISHED: 14:52 21 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:52 21 June 2019
A conservation charity has expressed its devastation after a number of rare bird eggs were stolen from a Norfolk beach.
Up to 20 little tern eggs were snatched in the incident which is believed to have taken place on Winterton beach between 6pm on Wednesday, June 19 and 7.30am and Thursday, June 20.
Little terns are one of the UK's rarest breeding seabirds, having suffered serious declines across the past 25 years.
Fabian Harrison from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said he was devastated by the news.
"With over half of the UK's breeding little terns making a home in East Anglia this year, it is devastating that seven clutches of little tern eggs have been illegally stolen from the Winterton colony in Norfolk," he said.
"We implore the public to stay vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour to the police immediately,"
Mr Harrison described the thieves as "sick people".
Little terns travel thousands of miles from their wintering grounds in Africa each summer to nest on the Norfolk coastline, as well as around the country.
In the early hours of Thursday morning little tern wardens identified human footprints leading up to the nests and discovered a number of eggs had been stolen.
The birds and their eggs are protected on the beach by being kept in a caged area.
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Mr Harrison said egg thieves were lesson common these days but incidents like this did happen on occasion.
He said: "There are two main reasons people tend to do this. It is either to create their own collection of eggs or to sell them on the black market.
"Thankfully this sort of thing is dying out and is not as common as it use to be."
In the 1980s there were 2,500 breeding pairs of little terns but it is estimated there are currently just 1,500 pairs.
Little terns are a schedule one breeding species, the highest tier of protection for wildlife under UK law.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to intentionally take or destroy the egg of any wild bird, or to intentionally or recklessly disturb a schedule one breeding species.
Anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious behaviour in the area between the times stated, or anyone with information, should contact Sergeant Andy Brown at Great Yarmouth Police Station on 101.
Alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.