Egg-theft blow to endangered eagles

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The eggs of one of Britain's rarest eagles have been stolen from their nest days before they were due to hatch.

The eggs of one of Britain's rarest eagles have been stolen from their nest days before they were due to hatch.

Two sea eagles, of which there are fewer than 20 breeding pairs in the United Kingdom, have been nesting on the island of Mull since January. At least one and possibly two eggs were due to hatch by Easter. The nest is now empty. Thieves are thought to have struck on Monday night.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: "Seeing this nest raided is just sickening. The timing of this theft shows the callousness of these thieves."

The RSPB is seeking custodial sentences for the theft of eggs of rare birds. It is an offence to possess the egg of a sea eagle - also known as the white-tailed eagle - but the toughest penalty is a fine. Last year two men were convicted of offences against the sea eagle on Mull.

Sarah Boyack, the Scottish environment minister, has indicated that she is considering the introduction of prison terms for stealing the eggs of rare birds.

The RSPB believes the theft would have been for a collector. "These people are fanatics," said the spokesman. "We have been working with the police to protect the nest under an initiative called Operation Easter, but these people are desperate to have an egg no one else possesses."

A spokesman for Strathclyde Police said: "We will make every effort to track down those responsible for this theft."

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