Norwich company fined for selling tiger parts

Tiger paws and tail intercepted by Border Force. PIC: Submitted.

Tiger paws and tail intercepted by Border Force. PIC: Submitted. - Credit: Archant

A Norwich woman has been involved in the illegal sale of tiger parts to a buyer in China, it has emerged.

The discovery of a package containing four tiger paws and a tail by Border Force officers at Heathrow Airport's World Distribution Centre sparked an investigation which would lead back to Norwich.

The package containing parts of a tiger, one of the world's most endangered species, had been sent from an address in the city and was destined for Shanghai, but was intercepted before it could leave the country.

Norfolk police were alerted to the find and began an investigation, together with the National Wildlife Crime Unit, during which they executed a warrant at the home address of Ruolan Mi, the director of MZ Trading Ltd, who had sent the package.

Although no other animal parts were found during the search of the property in Bowthorpe police interviews with the suspect revealed the tiger skin had been purchased on the internet before the parts were packaged up and sent onto an existing customer in China.

It is believed the paws and tail of the tiger, which is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) agreement which ensures trade in specimens of wild animals does not threaten their survival, were removed from the skin which is also thought to have been sold, but to a different customer.

The company MZ Trading Ltd, which has a registered address at Thorpe Road, Norwich, was last month fined £2,000 after Mi, 32, of Bowthorpe admitted four offences of the prohibited sale of a specimen covered by the control of trade in endangered species regulations between April and November last year.

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The defendant, who was also ordered to pay £85 costs and a £120 victim surcharge, has also had the items taken from her as part of the sentence imposed by city magistrates on August 19.

Mi declined to comment about the case.

Details of the case have emerged just weeks after antiques dealer John McCabe was fined after appearing at King's Lynn Magistrates' Court when he admitted selling a crocodile skull he had bought from an antique fair and monkey skulls he had purchased on Ebay.

McCabe, 36, of Ten Mile Bank, was fined £930 for selling monkey skulls and £115 for the sale of a crocodile skull.

Speaking after the case at Norwich Magistrates' Court, Sergeant Tom Mann, a wildlife officer for Norfolk police, said: 'We take any reports of animal cruelty very seriously and will always act firmly in such matters.

'In this case, the offender did not inflict the cruelty themselves but they were still guilty of the offence of transporting the specimens for financial gain.

'She (the defendant) was not involved in the killing of the animal but we have to prosecute because she, by what she's done, is still encouraging the active trade in tigers and the like. I hope that this sentence will act as a deterrent for any potential future incidents of this nature.'

Sgt Mann said the investigation sparked by the discovery at Heathrow in September last year was one of the most unusual cases he has had to deal with.

He said: 'We deal predominantly with issues of people wanting to build where there's newts or bats or where someone has shot the wrong bird. In Norfolk its that kind of thing.

'It's quite unusual. It's something I've never dealt with before and perhaps will never come into contact with again, but it was a surprise.

Alan Roberts, investigative support officer at the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: 'This was first picked up as part of a joint operation between police, Border Force and ourselves and this outcome shows that we are not just content with seizing items – we will also prosecute if the offence is severe enough.'

Have you got a crime story? Email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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