Butterfly 'burglary' slur gets our man in Bogota in a flap

Click to follow
The Independent Online

* News of a fizzing spat from Pandora's correspondent bedded down in the Colombian jungle.

El Tiempo newspaper has accused Britain's ambassador to Bogota, Mr Haydon Warren-Gash, of taking rare butterflies from one of the national parks - a charge our chap vigorously denies.

A Colombian scientific source tells Pandora: "He was collecting without the right licence."

Warren-Gash, 57, denies this - at length - insisting that he checked with local wildlife rangers before trying to catch any butterflies.

"I did not collect any at that park, because they said I didn't have permission," he tells me. "I am not a nut with a net. I'm a serious research scientist; I've worked with Kenya and Ivory Coast governments to discover new species, and have about 12 butterflies named after myself or family members.

"I do collect butterflies outside Colombia's parks, because I am working with the Institute of Natural Sciences here to produce a conservation checklist."

He adds: "Some of the butterflies are in my house at the moment - but how else can I give them the added value [of expertise]?

"Some of them I exported. I have the necessary permission. There's no question I used a diplomatic bag."

He adds: "These allegations are untrue. I'm less than chuffed with the paper."

At least Mr Warren-Gash's wildlife excursion was less problematic than the 1995 bird-watching walk taken by a staff sergeant from the British embassy, which resulted in kidnap by guerrillas, detention for four months, and SAS rescue.

* One for Pandora's more Neanderthal male readers, perhaps?

Among the less politically correct lots at La Dolce Vita's charity auction was a night in charge of Peter Stringfellow's strip club.

Please step forward Mr Richard Dooley, separated from £51,000 of his wonga at Old Billingsgate Market for the pleasure (ahem).

"The lad said to me later that he was prepared to go as high as 100 grand," Stringfellow tells me. "He's gonna be a nightclub owner for the night which is what all men fantasise about - it's either that or playing for England and scoring the winning goal.

"He'll host the night, let in or bar who he wants, have a champagne reception. I don't know what he wants to do - either bring 250 of his mates in and have the girls, or maybe bring the family and his granny and not have the girls in there.

"Up to him."

* Rik Mayall heads for the West End stage tonight with Alan B'Stard's Extremely Secret Weapon.

The play's creators hooked up with photographic prankster Alison Jackson for some paparazzi-style publicity, right.

Jackson's oeuvre is mostly light-hearted banter - Sven in a pair of Union Jack boxers, for example. So doesn't suggesting that the Prime Minister indulges in a toot of "naughty salt" invite threatening letters from fat lawyers?

"No. Tony Blair takes cocaine all the time," says a publicist for the show, somewhat craving attention, methinks. "I rarely see him in person without a £10 note shoved up his nose."

An excitable woman from Downing Street comments: "We haven't heard anything about these photos. So far as I'm aware, they don't need permission from us to use them."

* The Government must be expecting some rough and tumble when its beloved "anti-terror" ID card scheme finally gets under way.

Campaigners from the NO2ID pressure group - which says the compulsory cards will be expensive, ineffective and infringe civil liberties - have been inspecting planning applications for the new "identity interview centres", where those needing a passport or card face an "intrusive personal interview". Or so says a Whitehall memo leaked last week. ("No, really, I am Mr Jones. Pleeease turn off the dripping tap...")

Alarmingly, the building plans contain a clearly marked "PANIC ROOM".

Presumably allowing staff to lock themselves in should applicants feel the need to riot en masse.

* Another day, another Christmas party pooper. Yesterday Pandora noted that John Reid's Christmas cards carry the legend "Season's Greetings" - with no mention of the Christian festival, despite Reid haranguing political correctness to win favourable headlines.

And there's further festive hypocrisy over at the new offices of the Daily Express, where staff are fuming over the latest alleged intervention by owner Richard Desmond.

His editor is running a "Save Our Christmas" campaign. But a galley slave complains that tinsel and baubles are banned from the Express: "We've been told no Sellotape or Blu-tac stains on the pristine white walls." So no Christmas cheer for Des's toilers, even as they pen "Scrooge boss" stories...