BIRD EGG thieves are being targeted as part of Operation Easter.
The campaign by Police Scotland involves the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and RSPB.
It targets egg thieves by monitoring their activities and sharing intelligence across the UK. It also raises awareness by giving general advice to the public about suspicious activity and also specialist advice to police officers.
Staff at NWCU have seen an increase in internet adverts offering wild bird egg collections for sale. Irrespective of the age of the collection offered this is likely to be illegal, with the potential penalty the same as had the eggs been newly taken.
The initiative which was developed in Scotland is now UK wide and involves regular liaison with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The operation is managed by former Tayside wildlife crime officer Alan Stewart, who launched the idea 17 years ago.
Operation Easter is backed by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland whose chairman, Scotland’s Environment and Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse said: "Egg theft is another very serious crime which can have a devastating impact on wild bird populations and can have connections to serious and organised criminals. This is one Easter egg hunt we’re determined to stop.
"It is shocking what egg thieves will do to target some of Scotland’s most famous and scarce birds and their disregard for the sustainability of species is utterly appalling.
"I applaud the efforts of Police Scotland and the NWCU as, once again, they tackle this difficult crime and would ask the public to report any suspicious activity."
Mr Stewart added: "Early nesting birds such as the raven and heron may already have been targeted. As the season progresses the nests of white-tailed eagles, golden eagles, chough, peregrine, hen harrier, osprey, red-throated and black-throated divers and many more rare birds will be sought out."
People can help by reporting suspicious behaviour, which may include egg thieves beating bushes, undergrowth or heather in order to flush a nesting bird. They may be seen to be hiding items, (possibly eggs in a container) for collection later.
A good description of the suspect should be noted, and a photograph may even be possible, from a distance. Car registration numbers should be noted and if possible a six figure map reference of where the person was operating. Dialling 999 (in an emergency) or 101 for non-emergency gives you contact with the nearest police station.
PAW Scotland offer a free iPhone app which can be used to record details of a suspected wildlife crime and email them to the police. This can be downloaded via www.PAW.Scotland.gov.uk