Rangers nail cruel bird trapper
16 February 2006
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports congratulates the National Parks & Wildlife Service on a successful operation involving a raid on the 10-acre estate of Spaniard, Juan Zapata, near the Phoenix Park in Dublin.
Wildlife rangers seized dozens of wild birds - illegally and cruelly trapped in his own garden - together with nets. Zapata is the son-in-law of well known and wealthy businessman, Michael O'Reilly, who owns Merlin Motors.
Zapata appeared before the district court last week, pleaded guilty to the offence, and was ordered to pay 800 to the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
According to the NPWS, this instance of trapping is only the tip of the iceberg and they have set up a special unit to crack down on the illegal trapping and trading of wild birds. Irish birds of prey, such as young peregrine falcons, can sell for up to 15,000 each in the Middle East. It is believed that there is a serious level of trapping of wild birds throughout the country, involving all sorts of illegal or unapproved cages, nets and traps. Following a number of raids, more cases are pending before the courts.
ICABS calls on Environment Minister, Dick Roche, to spare no expense in resources and manpower needed to tackle this most heinous of wildlife crimes - the trapping of vulnerable, defenceless birds.
For more details, please read the Sunday Times article below.
No escaping justice for songbird trapper
THE SPANISH son-in-law of Michael O'Reilly, head of one of Ireland's wealthiest business dynasties, has been fined 800 by a Dublin court after dozens of trapped Irish songbirds were found in cages at his estate near Dublin's Phoenix Park.
Juan Zapata was in district court last week following a dawn raid by wildlife rangers at Ashtown Lodge, his 10-acre estate. During the swoop, gardai and officials found scores of trapped wild birds, including redpolls, linnets and finches.
Zapata was represented in court by Sarah O'Reilly, his wife, who is the daughter of Michael O'Reilly, the used-car dealer who owns Merlin Motors. O'Reilly, who said her husband's English was "insufficient" to present himself in court, insisted "there was no monetary gain for Juan" from trapping the birds. At no stage had her husband sold the endangered species. Zapata had previously held a licence to trap birds in his native Spain, she said, and he didn't know it was illegal in Ireland.
Zapata was targeted by wildlife officials last year following complaints to the Dublin Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) about birds being trapped at Ashtown. Following an undercover investigation, officers and gardai obtained a warrant to search Ashtown Lodge last summer.
Rangers, some clad in ski masks and protective clothing, scaled the walls of the O'Reilly estate at 7am on June 8. They found Zapata, wrapped in a dressing gown, "furtively and hurriedly" gathering up an illegal 35m-clap net that was set up in the garden to trap birds. The ground was baited with bird feed and Zapata admitted to a ranger that he was trapping birds.
Officers also found dozens of wild birds, including canaries, goldfinches, bullfinches, greenfinches and chaffinches, trapped in cages, enmeshed in nets and housed in an aviary and conservatory. Rangers freed the disorientated birds, some of whom were beating themselves against the bars of wire cages.
Other birds had been separated from their young and were unable to feed them. They had string harnesses fitted around their wings, and others were tied or glued to cages.
One ranger testified: "Fitted to the body harnesses were swivel-ring attachments, which hung from the birds' abdomens, for connection to a leash or line for use as a decoy attracting in more wild birds for trapping."
"It was a significant operation," said Jim Moore, an inspector with the wildlife service who is co-ordinating a national crackdown on the trapping and trading of wild birds in Ireland.
"Zapata had an extensive operation, but he is not alone. There is a serious amount of trapping in Ireland involving all sorts of illegal or unapproved cages, nets and traps. In recent months we have seized mist nets, clap nets, cages and even glue traps. As a result, we now have a number of cases pending in the courts."
After the raid, wildlife officials secured an order to release the birds. They were brought to the open countryside and released. Many were severely disorientated, flying into bushes and other obstructions before they flew away.
A district judge last week fined Zapata 800, which is to be given to the DSPCA, having heard that 12 wooden cages and other items had been seized.
Prosecutions against Irish-based bird dealers are uncommon. Zapata, who formerly ran the Royal Tara Stud - Ireland's largest parrot breeding facility - is only the second twitcher to be prosecuted in recent years. Last year Richard O'Brien, a pet shop owner from Portlaoise, was fined 1,000 for posessing native wild finches and for other breaches of the Wildlife Act.
A special unit has been established by the National Parks and Wildlife service to crack down on the illegal trapping and trading of wild birds. The unit, led by Moore, is monitoring the activities of individual traders and criminal gangs.
Irish birds of prey, such as young peregrine falcons, can sell for up to 15,000 each in the Middle East.
"The trade in wild birds is highly lucrative, second only to drug dealing," said Robert Kenny of the DSPCA. "Some trapped-bird operations are akin to puppy farming."