An ex-member of the Rhodesian SAS has been jailed for 30 months after he attempted to export rare peregrine falcon eggs to a wealthy Arab in Dubai.
Jeffrey Lendrum, 48, was caught after cleaner John Struczynski spotted him dashing in and out of the shower in the Emirates' business class lounge at Birmingham International Airport.
But despite his frequent visits, the cleaner found the shower still dry and alerted counter-terrorism police fearing the former soldier had a more sinister purpose. When officers arrested Lendrum they found he had 14 rare peregrine falcon eggs bound in socks and strapped to his body to keep them warm.
The eggs, worth £70,000 on the black market in Dubai where falconry is a national sport, were still alive when they were seized by officers on May 3. Eleven were successfully hatched and the highly protected chicks released back in to the wild, Warwick Crown Court heard.
Lendrum, who regularly travelled around the world on business, admitted one count of trying to export the eggs and another of illegally stealing them from a nest on the side of a mountain in Rhondda, South Wales.
A former member of the Rhodesian SAS, the businessman developed dare-devil techniques, once abseiling off a cliff to reach a nest, while on another occasion he lowered himself from a helicopter in Canada to reach his prize.
Investigators said it was the such first case in the UK for 20 years. There are only 1,400 breeding pairs of peregrine falcons in the country and the birds receive the highest possible level of protection.
Jailing Lendrum, Judge Christopher Hodson said the "endangered" species "enhance the attraction of the countryside to all".
He added: "I quote the words of a Lord Justice of Appeal (Lord Justice Sedley) when he says, 'environmental crime, if established, strikes not only at a locality and its population but in some measure to the planet and its future.
"'Nobody should be allowed to doubt its seriousness or to forget that one side of the environmental story is always untold'. I adopt these words to express the gravity of what you did. A substantial term of imprisonment needs to be imposed to punish you and deter others."