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November 18, 1996, Bird Expert Sentenced To 7 Years For Smuggling Parrots - Today In Crime History

On this date, November 18, in the year 1996, Tony Silva, a renowned exotic bird expert and vocal protector of exotic birds, was sentenced to seven years in prison without parole for leading an illegal parrot smuggling operation.

Although the United States has strict laws prohibiting importation of endangered birds without permits, some aviculturists have managed to smuggle exotic birds by using complex and clandestine criminal organizations.  One such case involved the indictment in 1994 of Tony Silva, an aviculturist who had represented himself as a parrot conservationist, and served as Curator of Birds at Loro Parque, a parrot zoo in the Canary Islands.  Silva was only one of many arrested during a three-year international probe into bird smuggling, although his case was by far the best known.

Silva was caught in a United States Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement sting called “Operation Renegade,” after search warrants were issued for business records in his home and that of his mother.  Searches of their premises uncovered documentation of a major smuggling operation specializing in endangered birds.  Silva and his mother, who was also indicted, conspired to smuggle numerous rare birds from 1985 onward with the cooperation of a Paraguayan citizen who was also indicted and a Miami citizen who aided in the conspiracy.  Silva earned an estimated $1.3 million from this smuggling, according to prosecutors.

Silva's indictment and guilty plea shocked the international community of academic experts, conservationists, zoologists, and collectors interested in endangered birds, most of whom had known and respected him as a bird lover.   The sentencing judge, outraged at the inhumane treatment the birds had received at the hands of the smugglers, handed down a harsh sentence in the Silva case: an 82-month prison term, a $100,000 fine and an order to perform 200 hours of community service during a three-year probationary term after his prison sentence was served. "The real victims of these crimes, " the judge said, "were the birds themselves and our children and future generations who may never have the opportunity to see any of these rare birds."

Sources and more information:

Smuggler Of Birds Sentenced, New York Times

Operation Renegade, U.S. Department of Justice

High-profile expert on exotic birds is sentenced for smuggling parrots,

Wikipedia: Tony Silva

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