Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Pablo Escobar of eggs’ faces justice after 35 years of smuggling shells

‘Pablo Escobar of eggs’ faces justice after 35 years of smuggling shells

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Four eggs of albino peregrine falcon, a species native to the Patagonia, were seized to Irish dealer Jeffrey Lendrum at the airport of Sao Paulo, Brazil. AFP

‘Pablo Escobar of eggs’ faces justice after 35 years of smuggling shells

Jeffrey Lendrum spent three decades living as the so-called “Pablo Escobar of eggs”, smuggling the fragile shells from the nests of falcons and other birds of prey to wealthy international clients.

His racket was smashed in 2018 when customs officers at London’s Heathrow Airport found him in possession of 19 birds of prey eggs worth a total of $130,000.

During a full search, he was found to be wearing a body belt made out of bandages concealing 19 eggs from vultures, falcons and kites as well as two newly-hatched African fish eagle chicks.

His body belt was designed to “brood” his stash so the chicks would not die before he sold them.

A British court sentenced the 58-year-old Irish-Zimbabwean to more than three years in prison in January last year.

But he now faces another court appearance on Wednesday, which could see him spend up to three more years in jail in South America, if Britain accepts an extradition request.

He is wanted for skipping bail in 2016 after a Brazilian judge sentenced him to four and a half years for attempting to smuggle peregrine falcons out of the country.

Middle East buyers

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prolific bird egg smuggler Jeffrey Lendrum with bird eggs stapped to his body in a sling, after arriving in the UK at Heathrow Airport. AFP

Stealing bird eggs runs in the family: the veteran thief received his first conviction aged 22, when he and his father were found guilty of petty theft in Zimbabwe.

He has since served time in Canada, Brazil and Britain.

The main drivers of egg poaching are wealthy clients in the Middle East, where peregrine falcons are in great demand for traditional falconry and can sell for thousands of dollars, according to the wildlife trade specialists Traffic.

Illegal trade in animals is worth nearly $20 billion each year, according to Interpol.

But Traffic spokesman Richard Thomas said there are “fewer than half a dozen” reported cases of egg thefts around the world each year.

However, the thefts are “not insignificant” and still constitute “serious crimes”, he said.

“Some of the species involved are extremely rare and even small numbers [of eggs] illegally taken from the wild can have a significant impact on threatened populations,” he added.

The smuggler’s 35-year notoriety is such that “Lendrum is a well-known name to conservation charities working on illegal bird trade issues,” said Thomas.

In 2010, he was stopped at Birmingham International Airport in central England with egg boxes strapped to his chest.

Nicknamed “the Pablo Escobar of eggs” by the British press after the Colombian drug lord, Lendrum has amazed readers with the audacity of his crimes.

He has been arrested five times on three different continents. Details of his crimes contrast with the grey-haired, potbellied man, half-naked and wrapped in strips of cloth, after his arrest.

Lendrum, once a member of the Rhodesian army’s special forces, even used a helicopter during a theft in northern Quebec, hanging from a rope to get close to the nest, according to Joshua Hammer, in The Falcon Thief, the book he wrote about Lendrum’s exploits.

The Financial Times called Lendrum “the world’s greatest bird of prey thief” but Thomas warned against turning him into “an anti-hero”.

“Rather, I think the publicity around his regular convictions helps demonstrate that persistent offenders will be caught and receive increasingly more severe punishments,” he said.


  • All inbound flights set to face added scrutiny

    Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said on Monday that the ministry is monitoring all inbound flights, after it was announced that only those from Malaysia and Indonesia will be temporarily cancelled from August 1. Vandine said on Monday that the two countries were identified as

  • Flights from Indonesia, Malaysia cancelled

    A Ministry of Health official has warned of the possibility of Covid-19 spreading through community transmission after the total infected cases in the Kingdom rose to 225. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told reporters on Saturday that the possibility of community transmission cannot be overlooked and that

  • Man in quarantine dies of ‘overdose’

    The Ministry of Health on Thursday said a Cambodian migrant worker who died while being isolated at a quarantine centre in Tbong Khmum province’s Kroch Chhmar district may have died from syncope or overdose of tablets. In a statement, the ministry said the 21-year-old