Man charged on suspicion of theft of rare bird skins

Press release - 16 November 2010

Tring theft investigation update

Detectives investigating the theft of 299 rare bird skins from the Natural History Museum in Tring have charged a man in connection with the incident.

On 24 June last year (2009) it is alleged there was a break-in at the museum, which is on Akeman Street in Tring. It was subsequently discovered that 299 brightly-coloured bird skins were missing, believed stolen, from a collections’ area.

Edwin Rist, aged 22, from the USA, has been charged with burglary and money laundering offences. He is due to appear at Hemel Hempstead Magistrates court on 26 November.

Police have recovered the majority of the bird skins.


Notes for editors

  • The Bird Group and ornithological research collections of the Natural History Museum are located in Hertfordshire at the Natural History Museum at Tring. The collections were moved out to Tring in the 1970s into a purpose-built building, which is separate from the public museum.
  • The ornithological specimens are used in studies of comparative anatomy, osteology, zoogeography, ecology, conservation, art, archaeology, taxonomy, evolution and a variety of other subjects. For example, much of our knowledge of bird distributions in Africa is derived from these specimens.  
  • Hundreds of enquiries a year are received from all over the world requesting measurements or data from the specimens, identification of specimens, bones, feathers or asking for advice and information on ornithological matters. Enquiries are received from scientists, members of the public, local authorities, public health officers, law enforcement agencies, government departments, archaeologists, schools and many others.
  • The public part of the Natural History Museum at Tring, in Hertfordshire, opened in the late 1800s to house the collections of Lionel Walter, second Baron Rothschild and offers outstanding examples of nineteenth-century taxidermy at its very best. The Museum was bequeathed to the nation and became part of the Natural History Museum in 1938. The public galleries were modernised, but the fascinating character of the Museum has been retained.
  • More than 120,000 visitors a year enjoy a glimpse into the fascinating world of a Victorian collector, where they can see a huge variety of wild, weird and wonderful specimens from across the animal kingdom – from armadillos to zebras.