DNA testing helps convict hawk keeper

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The Independent Online
A SCIENTIFIC test used to trap murderers and rapists yesterday helped convict a man of keeping rare wild birds of prey in captivity.

Joseph Seiga pleaded guilty to possessing four young wild goshawks after DNA genetic fingerprinting proved they could not have been born to his adult female bird.

There are only about 250 pairs of wild goshawks in Britain and it is illegal to keep them in captivity unless they are captive-bred. The buzzard-sized hawks are worth pounds 1,000 each on the black market.

Seiga, 46, unemployed, of Tarbock, Merseyside, was fined pounds 100 by Huyton magistrates and ordered to pay pounds 100 towards the pounds 2,500 prosecution costs of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Mike Love, for the prosecution, told the court that RSPB officers found several birds of prey at Seiga's premises in June last year, including the young goshawks and an adult female which he claimed was their mother.

A vet took blood samples from all five birds for DNA testing.

'It was possible to say without any shadow of doubt that the four juvenile birds were not related to the adult he said was the parent,' Mr Love said.

He added that many young wild goshawks vanished into the falconry world each year. A recent survey of eight nests in the Peak District showed the young from seven had disappeared.

'This is a test case and an important one to show the falconry world that it is now possible to establish whether a young bird has the origin which is claimed.'

Mr Love said the four young birds had disappeared and Seiga said they had been stolen.