By Sally King
THE centre which runs the recovery program for the endangered Spanish Imperial Eagle has been linked to egg thefts of protected birds of prey.
Police have arrested 16 people including the director and staff members of the Sevilla based centre in connection with the fraud.
The suspects are believed to have been falsely inflating figures of the number of chicks born at the centre in order to obtain higher grants from the Junta de Andalucia over a period of nine years.
Meanwhile the eggs and chicks of this rare bird were actually being stolen from nests in the wild.
The network is believed to extend beyond the centre in Sevilla with more than 150 people likely connected to the organised theft of eggs and chicks for the illegal sale of protected birds of prey.
Some chicks were sold for as much as 18,000 euros.
“There is a huge problem with illegal bird trafficking in Spain,” said Juan Onate, the coordinator of SEO Birdlife.
“There are lots of bad people who just don’t care about the eagles, but it’s really important to protect this species as there are very few left and they are dangerously close to being extinct.”
Officers have so far rescued 101 live birds from the centre while 11 have been found dead.