Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Egg Hunters
July 15, 2013 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Operation Easter: The hunt for illegal egg collectors
posted by tavegyl (27 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
An unemployed Londoner, Gonshaw had already served three prison terms on egg-collecting charges. When he was last apprehended, in 2004, investigators had seized nearly six hundred eggs, a hundred and four of them hidden inside a secret compartment in his bed frame.

... obsessed much?
posted by mrbill at 10:37 AM on July 15, 2013


Great article.

Lord Walter Rothschild, the banker and zoologist, who was famous for driving a zebra-drawn carriage.

Who wouldn't want a zebra drawn carriage.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:40 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Founded in 1889 by women denied membership in the British Ornithologists’ Union, the R.S.P.B. was granted a royal charter in 1904, around the same time that, in the U.S., Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed his support for the Audubon Society. Today, the R.S.P.B. is one of the most influential protectionist groups in the world, with more than a million members; in Scotland, it is the eighth-biggest landowner.

The organization’s headquarters are in Sandy, an hour north of London, on a sprawling forty-acre nature reserve. Six hundred employees work there, in buildings named for birds. The investigations office—a small open space with six desks, in the Bittern building—overlooks a manicured garden and a pond. “Once, an e-mail went out to the entire staff that there was a honey buzzard outside, and within minutes four hundred people were there,” Thomas told me, shaking his head.
"
Both this, and just the whole everything of the article, is just so intensely British I couldn't help but wonder if it wasn’t all some kind of elaborate parody.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:00 AM on July 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


I can't help but keep thinking of Gussie Fink-Nottle and his newts.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:06 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


They need to send in this man.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:10 AM on July 15, 2013


Oology—the study of eggs—is “one of the most exciting areas of ornithology and, in many respects, one of the least known,” Douglas Russell, the curator of the egg collection at Tring, told me.

I am oddly delighted by this man's genuine excitement over eggs although I must admit he sounds like a bit of an anorak.
posted by elizardbits at 11:22 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also I am picturing him as Stephen Maturin, which is always entertaining.
posted by elizardbits at 11:23 AM on July 15, 2013


Who wouldn't want a zebra drawn carriage.

I really don't have any place to park it, and zebra feed is expensive and inconvenient to obtain. I would settle for a nice photo of such a carriage.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:40 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Two years of hard work" to break the zebras to the harness? Perhaps it was done with kindness. I would like to think so. I don't, though.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:42 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The previous week, he had accompanied police in Suffolk on the raid of a suspected egg collector who was also a police officer. They found six hundred and fifty eggs in his home, and two sets of handwritten data cards with scientific notations. One set dated the eggs to the nineteen-forties and early fifties, when taking eggs was still legal. The second set—found inside an empty water tank in the attic—contained the same notations but with the real dates of collection. “It was the perfect crime,” Thomas told me. “Except he’s kept all the evidence.”

You might say the perpetrator was...


ova-confident!

*puts on glasses*

*guitar*
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:48 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Great article. There's an episode of Doc Martin where there's a rare nesting site and a collector. I never realized it was a thing in the UK.
posted by yeti at 11:52 AM on July 15, 2013


RSPB membership, 2012: over 1 million
Combined membership of the 3 major British political parties, 2012 : less than 400,000
posted by Bwithh at 12:11 PM on July 15, 2013


I'm so totally in love with the idea of a nefarious policeman keeping two sets of scientific 3x5s for his illicit egg collection
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:19 PM on July 15, 2013


I'm so totally in love with the idea of a nefarious policeman keeping two sets of scientific 3x5s for his illicit egg collection

And he would have gotten away with it, had it not been for the second (correct) set.

But I guess if you're not completely obsessive, you're not stealing eggs out of birds' nests to begin with either.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:45 PM on July 15, 2013


WTF? What the hell is so damn hard about just leaving the damn animals alone? Maybe these people could even put in a little effort or cash to help preserve species rather than driving them extinct? I'll never understand some people (especially the extremely wealthy ones).
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 2:18 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Take an egg, lose a gonad. It's in the bible bro
posted by lordaych at 3:09 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see people like this pick on something that would have reasonable odds of fighting back if it objected to its eggs being taken. I bet a saltwater crocodile egg would make quite a conversation piece.
posted by Anne Neville at 4:33 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apparently egg collectors are as obsessive, if not more so, as orchid collectors.

I'll never understand some people (especially the extremely wealthy ones.
Easy to understand: wealth = privilege.



You might say the perpetrator was...
ova-confident!
posted by GenjiandProust


Ha, that's nuthin'
The officer told Everitt that a nature-reserve warden on the Isle of Rum, twenty miles offshore, had reported seeing a man “dancing about” in a gull colony.

Gonshaw was caught because he was ova-eggcited.



"Two years of hard work" to break the zebras to the harness? Perhaps it was done with kindness. I would like to think so. I don't, though.

I was told by a gal that broke a zebra to ride and do trick work that zebras are like mules--they will hold a grudge and they don't forget, so roughing them up is asking for a huge amount of trouble.

I sincerely doubt Rothschild did his own training. More likely it was done by one of the original "horse whisperers"--someone like Capt. Horace Hayes. In training his zebras, he stated that he "did not throw the animal down, nor...resort to the usual heroic horse-taming methods." If not Hayes, there were other Americans who toured Europe giving demonstrations like Oscar Gleason, trainer and writer of "How to Handle and Educate Vicious Horses." He was famous for his Madison Square Garden exhibition of working with the MAN-EATING ZEBRA; PROF. GLEASON HAS NO DIFFICULTY IN SUBDUING HIM. A third trainer was Professor Jesse Beery who claimed to handle difficult stallions and trained zebras for circus work, including driving.

Lord Walter Rothschild apparently was quite the character. Here's another picture of him driving the same team of four on a different carriage. And here he is with a single zebra put to a Meadowbrook two wheel cart--a much more impressive feat IMO, since zebras are such herd animals. I would think they'd be more amenable in a four-up.

When he wasn't driving zebras or annoying the birds, he was galloping around on a tortoise.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:14 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


UK national police operations: drug trafficking, human trafficking, football hooliganism, and egg collecting.

Well.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:31 PM on July 15, 2013


The organization’s headquarters are in Sandy, an hour north of London, on a sprawling forty-acre nature reserve. Six hundred employees work there, in buildings named for birds. The investigations office—a small open space with six desks, in the Bittern building—overlooks a manicured garden and a pond. “Once, an e-mail went out to the entire staff that there was a honey buzzard outside, and within minutes four hundred people were there,” Thomas told me, shaking his head.

I can only visualize this as staged by Wes Anderson.
posted by dhartung at 3:09 AM on July 16, 2013


I'll never understand some people (especially the extremely wealthy ones).

Cool story, bro, but I'm not sure how relevant it is when the main focus of the story is someone who seems to perpetually oscillating between prison, menial employment, and being unemployed.
posted by atrazine at 4:17 AM on July 16, 2013


a nature-reserve warden on the Isle of Rum, twenty miles offshore, had reported seeing a man “dancing about” in a gull colony.

"Now, what did you say you saw?"
    "A man wearing camouflage! Dancing around in a seagull colony!"
"Just so. And where did you see this?"
    "Isle of Rum!"
"Well, I'm a whiskey man myself, but I know when to take a break and lie down."
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:01 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


George_Spiggott: ""Two years of hard work" to break the zebras to the harness?"

Couldn't they just paint stripes on a bunch of white horses?
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:38 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Couldn't they just paint stripes on a bunch of white horses?

Black horses.
posted by atrazine at 1:26 PM on July 16, 2013


atrazine: "I'm not sure how relevant it is when the main focus of the story is someone who seems to perpetually oscillating between prison, menial employment, and being unemployed."

Not the dude I was talking about, bro. I thought it was obvious, but I'll help you out a little. I referring to this point in the article, bro, "In 1922 in London, Earl Buxton, addressing the annual meeting of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, warned of the “distinct menace” posed by egg-collecting members of the British Ornithologists’ Union, of which Lord Rothschild was a member."

I believe Rothschild was a teeny, tiny bit wealthy. Make more sense to ya now, bro?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 4:20 PM on July 16, 2013


It's not clear that Rothschild (by which I mean the 2nd Baron) was necessarily as completely out of line as modern collectors are; amateur zoology had somewhat more legitimacy in the 19th century (and Rothschild took it pretty seriously, although it's not immediately clear what he did personally versus what he bankrolled), and by the time that Earl Buxton condemned the Ornithologists' Union, Rothschild was in his mid-50s and probably not doing it very much anymore. He was dead in '37, so not that much later, and when he did the entire collection went to the British Museum, so it presumably had some scientific merit in the sense of not being clearly duplicative of stuff they already had. Absent some evidence that he was going around defending it as a gentlemanly sport, I think he can be given something of a pass.

I think it's necessary to draw a clear distinction between egg / specimen collecting in centuries past, when it might have had at least some value, and someone doing it today when it clearly does not. Anyone who wants to know what the eggs of a red-tailed hawk or whatever looks like can do so; there is no longer any reason to steal eggs from birds nests.

There are a lot of other similar parallels in science and medicine; vivisection comes to mind. One can acknowledge, however reluctantly, that knowledge might have been obtained from it at one point while still roundly condemning anyone who would do it today for recreation.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:23 PM on July 16, 2013


Kadin2048: ""

Fair enough. I'm not going to pollute the thread with an argument. I didn't mean any offense. I merely meant to highlight what I see as a problem that (is and ) has been occurring with very wealthy people with regards to limited natural resources (living or not) for a VERY long time, and it appears to be screwing us all, not to mention the animals or the planet.

I mean even today we're losing elephants, rhinos, etc. at an alarming rate. It's disgusting. (Didn't the black rhino just receive its distinction as officially extinct?)

Merely my opinion, though, and I will readily admit that. I'll refrain from commenting further so the discussion can proceed without my derail. My apologies to all.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 12:09 AM on July 17, 2013


« Older Mark Holman was a severely disabled teenager who h...   |   New Netflix original series "O... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments