msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/15/2010 11:08:59 AM ET 2010-11-15T16:08:59

An American man has been charged with stealing hundreds of rare bird skins from a British museum.

Detectives investigating the theft of nearly 300 brightly colored stuffed birds from the Natural History Museum in Tring arrested Edwin Rist on Friday.

Police said Monday the 22-year-old has been charged with burglary and money laundering offenses.

The bird skins disappeared after reports of a break-in at the museum, which is located northwest of London, in June last year.

'Threatened with extinction'
Richard Lane, director of science at the museum, said the specimens included male trogons and quetzals from Central and South America, as well as birds of paradise from New Guinea.

"The particular birds that have been stolen are actually quite uncommon in nature and because they are uncommon in nature they are actually particularly uncommon in big research collections," Lane told The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

"A number of them are threatened with extinction so therefore losing this material, losing these specimens, we lose the opportunity to understand about birds that are threatened with extinction."

The American is due to appear in court on November 26, the BBC reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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