Hollywood animal supplier charged over illegal trading

It is thought more than 350 million wild animals and plants are bought and sold worldwide each year
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The Independent Online

A taxidermist whose firm supplied stuffed animals to dozens of Hollywood films from the Harry Potter series to Casino Royale was yesterday accused of trading in endangered species.

Simon Wilson, 49, was arrested in March when officers swooped on a studio in Mayfair after he allegedly tried to sell a stuffed tiger, worth £50,000, to a client.

After a lengthy investigation by Scotland Yard's Wildlife Crime Unit, Mr Wilson was charged last week with storing the corpses of exotic animals in a freezer at his workshop at Game Farm, in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire.

They included a Himalayan black bear, an orangutan, a peregrine falcon, an Asian arowana fish, the skeleton of a mandrill monkey and a leopard skin as well as 11 rooks, two red-legged partridges, six pigeons, a black-headed gull and a chaffinch.

Mr Wilson, from Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, is further charged with falsifying documents relating to endangered animals and fraud.

His company, Animatronic Animals Ltd, has showcased its products in scores of blockbuster movies, among them Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, The Mummy, 101 Dalmatians, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and five Harry Potter films. The list also mentions TV soaps such as Emmerdale, Coronation Street and EastEnders. According to the firm's website it can stuff animals "in a certain position for your shoot" and "make the animal flexible so that changes can be made to the position on the shoot". It also offers stuffed animals that move on command, operated by remote control, adding: "We have a range of models and taxidermy in stock and can also create any animal from a Mouse to a full size T- Rex as a static model or a fully animatronic creation."

Mr Wilson yesterday appeared at City of Westminster magistrates' court. The district judge adjourned proceedings until September, when the committal hearing will take place.

Mr Wilson was arrested as part of the Metropolitan Police's Operation Charm, the London-wide crackdown on the illegal wildlife trade.

It is thought that more than 350 million wild animals and plants are bought and sold worldwide each year. Some of this trade is legal, but the US State Department has estimated that the illegal trade in endangered species is worth £5bn annually.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that the UK legal trade in endangered specimens is worth up to £50m per year.

To trade in the world's most endangered species, a permit must be acquired through Defra. Traders must also obtain an export permit from the country of origin certifying that the species was obtained legally.