Most hobbies such as stamp collecting are benign, but a forty-year old Swedish man was collecting wild birds. Over about a five-year period he was convicted of taking 13,000 wild birds from natural habitats. It is believed he also took viable eggs, meaning they would not have been able to hatch. He carefully documented each bird in an extensive database. Some of the birds were protected species such as the three-toed woodpecker and the eagle-owl. These two had experienced declines related to DDT exposure and conservation programs had been implemented to help them recover. Efforts to help the eagle owl date back several decades. In 1983 a breeding program had just two wild eagle owl pairs for making chicks.
The man’s strange behavior likely had a negative impact on the protected birds recovery. Additionally, some of the birds he put in cages, which undoubtedly caused them to suffer. For his actions the man was sentenced to eighteen months in prison. His attorney said it was just a hobby that became overzealous, but the man was convicted of animal cruelty, violating animal protection laws, and hunting crimes. “The extent of the number of birds that this guy collected is a bit terrifying. Thankfully this is pretty unusual. We donít come across this type of collectors very often,” said the chairman of the Swedish Ornithological Society. (Source: thelocal.se)
Animal hoarding is a form of compulsive hoarding, and it is believed by some to by a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder, though others see it as potentially an independent disorder. Animal hoarders often believe they are helping animals by collecting and housing them, even when it is easily observed their living conditions are unsanitary or too crowded. They also often have a strong emotional attachment to the animals they have collected, though their behavior can also cause them harm. In the case of a single person collecting 13,000 wild birds, it clearly appears to be a case of a mental health issue.
Simply putting an unwell person in jail for eighteen months is not likely to be a solution to the ecologically damaging behavior, because the rate of recidivism for animal hoarding can be very high. Without addressing the mental health issues in play, how can the behavior change – will it simply start up again after the prison term? The wild birds such as the eagle owl and woodpecker will be further reduced if there is no restraint placed on such human activities, but how can authorities deal with such a situation while maintaining a known convict’s† basic civil liberties?
Image Credit: Kamil