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Swede jailed for catching 13,000 wild birds

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Swede jailed for catching 13,000 wild birds
The bird in the picture is not one of the 13,000 featured in the article.
14:30 CEST+02:00
The 40-year-old Swedish bird enthusiast who caught more than 13,000 wild birds was sentenced on Monday to 18 months in prison for aggravated hunting crimes, animal cruelty, and violating Sweden's protected species laws.

"The verdict is clear and states that a serious crime has been committed. It also shows that a serious crime leads to a serious sentence," said prosecutor Christer Jarlås, who had argued for 2 years in prison.

According to Jarlås, the man's aviary obsession began as a simple hobby before spiralling out of control. He argued the man should be sentenced to two years in prison.

”That is the penalty for this kind of aggravated crimes,” said Jarlås to news agency TT prior to the verdict.

The 40-year-old is believed to have been hunting and catching birds since January 2005 until being caught in June 2010.

He is also suspected of taking eggs and baby birds from nests.

The man kept an extensive database which included notes of the 13,983 birds and eggs collected.

Included in the notes were descriptions of how he caught several species of owls, eagles, hawks, woodpeckers and geese, some of which are protected species.

The man's defence lawyer Thomas Martinsson said his client admitted to hunting and protected species crimes, but that he feels the violations shouldn't be considered severe.

In most cases he released the birds after a short time. And one of the reasons behind catching the animals was that he wanted to save injured birds.

”It was simply a hobby that got out of hand,” said Martinsson to TT.

According to Dennis Kraft, chairman of the Swedish Ornithological Society (Svenska ornitologiska föreningen), the man's compulsive bird collecting could have had a negative impact on the populations of a number of rare bird species.

”Especially the three-toed woodpecker and the eagle-owl which we have been working hard to help recover after they almost disappeared in the 1990s due to environmental pollutants,” he told TT at the time of the bird fancier's arrest.

“And although some of the birds caught belong to more common species, he has still made them suffer by putting them in cages.”

According to Kraft, there is nothing common about the man's behaviour.

“The extent of the number of birds that this guy collected is a bit terrifying. Thankfully this is pretty unusual. We don't come across this type of collectors very often," he said.

The man said during the trial that he understood what he had done was wrong but that he always tried to act in the best interests of the animals.

But both witness accounts and expert testimony indicated that the man intentionally subjected the birds to severe suffering in part because he kept them locked in small cages.

According to the verdict, the man had acted recklessly and is therefore also guilty of animal cruelty.

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