Man arrested for trying to sell giant stuffed tiger from Alexander McQueen fashion shoot for £50,000
By Rebecca Camber
Last updated at 7:24 PM on 24th March 2010
Police have arrested a man trying to sell a giant stuffed tiger from an Alexander McQueen fashion shoot for £50,000.
The adult Bengal tiger was used as a prop in a photoshoot for the late fashion designer a few months before his death in February this year.
Police believe the big cat was being sold illegally as a unique piece of fashion memorabilia.
Officers from Scotland Yard’s Wildlife Crime Unit seized the stuffed animal from SHOWstudio near Oxford Street in central London last week after officers were tipped off that it was being sold illegally without the necessary paperwork.
Police are now investigating when and where the animal was killed and stuffed.
They have arrested a 47-year-old man on suspicion of breaking international wildlife laws.
If the animal was killed after 1947, the owner must provide documentation to verify its origin and that its sale complies with laws to protect the slaying of endangered species.
Rare stuffed animals such as tigers and lions can sell for more than £75,000.
The stuffed animal mounted on a wooden platform was bought from a German zoo last year for the shoot by renowned British photographer Nicholas Knight to advertise a range of Puma trainers designed by McQueen.
Following the photoshoot last October, the tiger was put up for sale at a prop emporium run by the photographer who has shot album covers for stars like Kylie Minogue, Cheryl Cole, Elvis Costello, Boy George, David Bowie and Paul Weller.
The arrest is part of a crackdown on the illegal trade in endangered species codenamed Operation Charm.
Since the launch of the operation in 1995, the Metropolitan Police has seized more than 30,000 endangered species products being sold illegally in London including traditional Chinese medicines, elephant ivory, animal skins and fashion items.
Detective Sergeant Ian Knox of the Wildlife Crime Unit, said: ‘In order to discourage the trade in rare animals and related items, it is crucial that regulations surrounding their sale are strictly enforced.
‘Where an item is suspected of breaching the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species regulations designed to protect our planet’s most endangered flora and fauna, we will take the appropriate action to establish its origin and, when necessary, seize it as evidence.’
An advert about the tiger posted on the studio’s website reads: ‘Created for Spring/Summer 2010 Alexander McQueen PUMA campaign Crane Vs. Tiger, photographed by Nick Knight.
‘Taxidermied Belgian tiger specimen on painted wooden base. 204 x 60 x 200cm’
The reference to Belgium may be where the animal was stuffed.
Although the trade in wild tiger skins is illegal in Europe, trade in captive-bred tigers is allowed if a certificate is given by the country’s wildlife department.
While the UK’s Department of Environment rarely issues such certificates, if the authority of another EU country provides a certificate to a dealer in that country the item can then be imported into the UK.
An investigation in 2007 revealed that European zoos were killing healthy tigers in order to sell their bodies to a taxidermist in Belgium who sold the stuffed animals on to wealthy collectors.