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Image: Peter Flood

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A man from Scotland has become the first in the country to be successfully prosecuted after being found guilty of selling the skulls of endangered whale species that he stored in his bedroom.

The court heard how Steven Paterson, from Glenrothes, was found to be in possession of a pilot whale skull in his bedroom and two harbour porpoise skulls.  The police search of Paterson’s home also found jaw bones and skulls of other species.

All species of whale, porpoise and marine turtle are protected from commercial activity under the UK’s Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and Paterson was sentenced to a Community Service Order of 160 hours at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to various offences of trading in these endangered species.

The skulls will now be given to the National Wildlife Crime Unit to use for educational purposes.

Craig Harris, Head of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit, said: “The illegal trade of plant and animal specimens contributes to the depletion of wildlife populations which, in turn, has brought some species close to extinction.

“We will pursue those who choose to participate in the illegal trade of wildlife. As this case shows, carrying out such business online does not offer criminals a safe haven or protection from prosecution.

WDCS head of Scottish policy said: “WDCS is very pleased that this illegal trade has been halted in this case and our appreciation goes out to all those involved in bringing this successful prosecution. We welcome the decision to use these confiscated skulls as educational tools, which we hope will work to reduce this unnecessary and illegal activity in future generations.”