A MAN has been arrested and charged with trying to sell parts of a leopard and a “large bear” online.
The 49-year-old was arrested after a police raid on an address in Fife uncovered the preserved parts of the endangered animals.
Illegal trade is second only to habitat destructionWWF spokesman
Items recovered from the property were identified after being taken away for expert analysis.
Both leopards and bears are hunted for their skins and leopard teeth are also traded, but it is understood the animal parts seized were leopard bones and bear claws.
The leopard’s conservation status globally is described as “near threatened”, meaning it may face extinction soon.
Found across sub-Saharan Africa to south-east Asia, the big cat is vulnerable to being poached for its skin and other body parts.
A spokesman for Police Scotland said officers executed a search warrant at an address in the Cowdenbeath area of Fife as part of an intelligence-led operation on 29 July.
The spokesman said “a number of items” were recovered from the property, and following an independent expert analysis these are believed to be from a leopard and a large bear.
The man was charged under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations, and a report will be sent to the procurator fiscal in Kirkcaldy.
He is expected to appear at Dunfermline Sheriff Court in due course.
Police Scotland wildlife and environmental crime officer Lindsay Kerr said: “It is really quite rare, particularly in this part of the world, for someone to be involved in this kind of illegal and very damaging trade.
“However, acting on intelligence, Police Scotland and the National Wildlife Crime Unit carried out a thorough investigation and have arrested a 49-year-old man who is due to appear in court at a later date.
“My advice to anyone who is involved in the illegal sale of protected species is not to take the risk.
“It is a criminal offence and we investigate all reports of wildlife crime with the aim of ensuring that those involved in any black market activities are arrested.
“Anyone who wants to contact Police Scotland regarding wildlife crime should telephone the non-emergency number 101, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
Conservation organisation the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said although the UK was not a major international hub for illegal wildlife trade, wildlife crime was still a problem here.
A spokesman said: “The illegal wildlife trade is one of the biggest threats to the survival of some of the world’s most threatened species.
“In fact it’s second only to habitat destruction as a cause of loss for many species.”
Leopards were once widespread but they have been wiped out by hunting in countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait, Syria, Libya and Tunisia.