Two jailed for freeing wild boar into the wild in Maesteg
Two "sophisticated" thieves have been jailed for freeing more than 40 wild boar from a farm in Bridgend county.
The animals escaped from Bryn Mynach Farm, near Maesteg, in April 2014.
Carl John, 27, of Bridgend, admitted burglary and allowing the animals to escape, while James Marlow, 29, of Port Talbot, admitted the same offences and causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.
They were jailed for three years and eight months at Cardiff Crown Court.
Adam John, 30, of Port Talbot, who admitted being part of the burglary and possessing criminal property, was given a four-year sentence.
The court heard Adam John drove Marlow and Carl John to the farm of Greg Davies, who has a dangerous animal licence in order to keep the boars.
The "pre-planned, criminal enterprise" was carried out for the gang to steal high-value farm tools, of which £3,485 worth were taken, Heath Edwards, prosecuting, said.
Carl John and Marlow freed 23 adult boar and 19 boarlets, worth up to £30,000, after cutting through fences.
Marlow admitted later slaughtering one of two boars found dead immediately after the raid - one of which had had its throat cut - the court heard.
It is believed to be the first time anyone has been prosecuted under the releasing offence, which is part of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Mr Edwards said 12 of the adult boars were now living wild, while 15 boarlets were still unaccounted for following a "unique" joint search by police, Natural Resources Wales and Cardiff University.
The barrister said the economic and ecological consequences of their release had been "wide-spread, unusual and alarming".
Mr Edwards said media coverage had led to people asking Mr Davies for permission to hunt the boars "basically for sport".
Concerns have also been raised that the animals may "assist in the spread of swine flu and tuberculosis", the prosecutor added.
Sentencing the men, Judge David Aubrey QC said he was satisfied they were part of a "sophisticated criminal gang" driven by "your desire to satisfy your greed".
"You had no thought for the potentially devastating consequences to the farmer, whose property you burgled, nor to the harm that could be caused to the environment and to the public at large," he added.
"Nor to the cost that would be incurred in dealing with the danger and damage that you had caused."