Sissen comes clean on Lear’s to the Leader of the Opposition

CAGE & AVIARY BIRDS November 14 1998 William Hague to investigate macaw breeder’s dilemma Sissen comes clean on Lear’s to the Leader of the Opposition

Between April and May this year the world-renowned Macaw breeder, Harry Sissen had most of his collection confiscated in raids by HM Customs, as reported in the May 16 issue of Cage &.Aviary Birds. More than six months later, HM Customs have still not charged Mr Sissen with any offence. He is still unaware of the fate of the birds that were taken, many of whom were either on eggs or nest building at the time of the raids. In a bid to resolve this stalemate he has confessed his indiscretion to his constituency MP, the Rt. Hon William Hague and asked the Leader of the Opposition to help him get this matter resolved, writes Simon Mulholland.

During his discussions with Mr Hague, he admitted that the major problem he faces is his possession of Lear’s Macaws without CITES paperwork. Harry Sissen is actually the only UK citizen who has ever held Lear’s Macaws under CITES paperwork, but his birds were stolen. When the police arrested and charged a man who was trying to blackmail Harry for the return of the birds, he had high hopes of recovering them. But although the man concerned was jailed for blackmail, it appears that the authorities made no attempt to recover the Lear’s Macaws.

When he was subsequently offered the chance of buying Lear’s Macaws - which had been legally owned in Central Europe for many years - but without ClTES papers, he was unable to resist the temptation. He admits: "I accept that it was wrong, but I felt it was better the birds should be breeding with me, rather than in some collection in the Middle East which is what would happen if I refused them. I just don’t see why they had to terrorise all my other birds and take them from their breeding flights during the breeding season. I don’t think it was because of the Lear’s."

Mr Hague will be looking into the conduct of the case and the welfare of the birds taken by Customs and Excise. He feels Harry has made the right decision coming clean about the illegal birds in his possession, even though no charges have been made.

Cage &. Aviary Birds Editor, Garry Coward-Williams said: "There is absolutely no doubt that Harry Sissen is one of the most talented breeders of rare Macaws in the world. His action in taking the Lear’s from Central Europe should be seen as that of a mission of mercy - not an exercise in failed paperwork. The birds were not wild.

Furthermore, I would like to ask the following questions: what about all the other birds that were taken by HM Customs? Why have HM Customs not yet charged him? Why won’t they tell him where the birds are? Why did they take over 120 birds, many of whom are as rare as Lear’s and some of which were on the nests or on eggs. What was the conservation benefit of disrupting these endangered birds whilst breeding? And who was the person who advised the Customs officers to do this? Our reporter Simon Mulholland has asked HM Customs all these questions, but was told that the case was subjudice and could not be discussed. But how can the case be subjudice when Sissen has not been charged? We will be following this case for Cage and Aviary Birds, and will be reporting in detail what has happened and the implications for all holders of CITES listed birds."

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