A man has been sentenced to 30 months in prison after admitting attempting to smuggle rare bird eggs out of Britain.
Jeffrey Lendrum, 48, from York Close, Towcester, Northamptonshire, was found in possession of 14 peregrine falcon eggs when he was detained on 3 May.
He was arrested at Birmingham Airport as he waited for a flight to Dubai.
Lendrum was caught with the eggs, valued at £70,000 on the black market, strapped to his body after he was seen acting suspiciously by a cleaner.
The former member of the Rhodesian SAS had wrapped the eggs, which had been stolen from a nest in south Wales, in socks before taping them to his chest to keep them warm.
Abseiled from helicopter
After they were seized by police, 11 of the eggs were successfully hatched and the highly protected chicks released back in to the wild, Warwick Crown Court heard.
Investigators described Lendrum as "the highest level of wildlife criminal" and said the case was one of the most serious of its kind in decades.
Lendrum admitted one count of trying to export the eggs and another of illegally stealing them from a nest on the side of a mountain in Rhondda.
The court heard officers also found thousands of pounds of cash on Lendrum when they arrested him.
At first he claimed they were chicken eggs he had bought at Waitrose before trying to fool police by saying he used them to treat his bad back.
Police subsequently searched one of his properties in Northamptonshire where they discovered equipment for egg hunting, including incubators, a GPS system and walkie-talkies.
Lendrum had previous convictions in Zimbabwe and Canada for stealing rare eggs. He once abseiled off a cliff to reach a nest, while on another occasion he lowered himself from a helicopter in Canada to reach his prize.
He was caught after cleaner John Struczynski spotted him dashing in and out of a shower in the Emirates' business class lounge at the airport.
The cleaner found the shower still dry and alerted counter-terrorism police fearing Lendrum had a more sinister purpose.
Judge Christopher Hodson was told Lendrum was sorry for his actions.
The judge said: "These were eggs you had removed from the wild in Wales and you would have reduced the number of these high-level endangered species in the wild, birds which enhance the attraction of the countryside to all.
"I quote the words of a Lord Justice of Appeal (Lord Justice Sedley) when he says, 'environmental crime, if established, strikes not only at a locality and its population but in some measure to the planet and its future'.
"'Nobody should be allowed to doubt its seriousness or to forget that one side of the environmental story is always untold'.
"I adopt these words to express the gravity of what you did."
Nicola Purches, defending, said Lendrum had been a "model" prisoner while on remand. She asked the judge for leniency so her client would be released in time to see his terminally-ill father.
Outside court Lendrum's brother-in-law Calvin Maughan said: "After his divorce he was hoping to return to Africa where he works on a safari. He didn't realise the severity of the case."
Det Chief Insp Alex Murray, from West Midlands Police's counter terrorism unit, said Lendrum "had a lifelong passion for stealing eggs and exporting them".