Golden opportunity to step-up for bird of prey
5 October 2012
Media & Communications Officer
The RSPB has today revealed its annual Birdcrime report, with wildlife crime figures showing yet another year of poisoning, shooting and trapping for red kites, barn owls, peregrine falcons, goshawks and other persecuted species.
In the Midlands, the RSPB Investigations Unit received reports of 93 incidents of wild bird crime, which accounted for just under 16% of the UK incidents reported in Birdcrime 2011.
Fen Gerry, speaking for the RSPB in the Midlands said: “Amongst the wildlife crime figures in the Midlands, there were 33 reported incidents of bird of prey persecution, 6 reports of egg collecting incidents, 22 reports of the taking and sale of wild birds and 12 reports of poison and pesticide incidents.
“Too little has been done over the years to stop these sickening attacks on our vulnerable wildlife, but this could change with proposed reforms of wildlife law and policing”.
RSPB believes a review of wildlife protection legislation by the Law Commission - currently being consulted on - provides a golden opportunity to address ongoing persecution of bird of prey in England and Wales.
This month will also see the publication of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into wildlife crime while the imminent reorganisation of the police service and the creation of National Crime Agency will provide further opportunities to prioritise wildlife crime.
RSPB Conservation director Martin Harper said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to tackle the illegal shooting and poisoning of some of our most magnificent birds.
“I hope that tougher laws and penalties for wildlife offenders will help consign their crimes to the pages of history where they belong. We need Defra and Home Office Ministers, and the Welsh Government to step up for nature and make the right decisions. An essential first step is to secure the future of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which only has guaranteed funding until March next year.
“It’s been over a hundred years since poisoning of wild birds was outlawed in the UK and yet our report shows we’re still witnessing the slaughter of kites, eagles and buzzards. Fewer incidents were recorded last year, but as our report highlights birds of prey continue to die at the hands of those who want to remove them from our countryside. Thankfully, vastly more people are inspired by the homecoming of eagles, ospreys and peregrines and recognise these charismatic species bring huge enjoyment to people and benefits for tourist economies.” [note 5]
The report, Birdcrime 2011, provides a full account of the birds and prey and owls found dead as a result of persecution across the UK as well as details of wildlife crime prosecutions.
Nevin Hunter, the new head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “In my police career, I have investigated many offences, including the deliberate persecution of birds of prey. It is unacceptable and there is a need to work to address it across the UK with the help of all partner agencies.
“The NWCU will support the taking of preventative measures and in addition will work to gather intelligence and take robust enforcement action to tackle persecution wherever found.”
Fen Gerry, speaking for the RSPB in the Midlands said: “We urge members of the public across the Midlands to add their names to the campaign and help protect our iconic species, from buzzards to barn owls. Taking the time to write a letter can make a real difference.”
Further information on how members of the public can respond to the Law Commission’s consultation on its review of wildlife crime, is available at www.rspb.org.uk/lawsforwildlife.
For further information, more images and to arrange an interview, please contact:
Fen Gerry, RSPB Press Officer in the Midlands, on: 07912 406 125/ 07968 898 350
Images to support the this story are available from RSPB Images. To access an image, please click on the hyperlink below and then enter the user name and password when prompted.
User Name: GM_Birdcrime2011
1) Table 1: Breakdown of incidents recorded in 2011 in the Midlands
Bird of prey incidents
Non bird of prey incidents
2) Table 2: Confirmed incidents of poisoning and bird of prey persecution in the Midlands in 2011
Investigations ref ID
Shooting incident. Thin grounded red kite taken to wildlife hospital then died. Xray confirmed the bird had been shot.
Poison abuse incident. Red kite, rook and magpie all tested positive for bendiocarb.
Spring trap set illegally, targeting birds of prey.
Shooting incident. Dead barn owl examined – died of extensive haemorrhage due to 6 puncture wounds from shot.
Poison incident. Peregrine falcon tested positive for diazinon/dimpylate (sheep dip).
Poison abuse incident. 2 buzzards and 1 hedgehog tested positive for aldicarb.
Shooting incident. Pigeon fancier shot sparrowhawk near his house. Prosecution resulted see below.
Please note – that in order to protect sensitive case information, the exact details may have been removed from some of the incident.
1) The RSPB’s Birdcrime 2011 report includes a ‘Manifesto for Change’, which lists 13 recommendations to government which, if adopted, could radically change the wildlife crime landscape. These include:
• The introduction of a ‘vicarious liability’ offence in England and Wales, similar to the one already adopted by the Scottish Government. This would make land owners and land managers more accountable for the criminal actions of their employees;
• Increased penalties available to courts for wildlife offences;
• Improve the recording and reporting of wildlife crime. Serious wildlife crimes should be recorded by the Home Office in the same way as other crimes;
• Make possession of some commonly abused pesticides used in wildlife poisoning incidents illegal. The legislation to list these poisons already exists in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2004;
• Secure long term funding for the Police National Wildlife Crime Unit. The NWCU provides excellent value for money but needs to be adequately resourced beyond March 2013 to enable operational planning to tackle to government’s wildlife crime priorities.
2) ‘A Conservation Framework for Hen Harriers in the United Kingdom’ was published in February 2011 by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. The report identifies persecution as the principal constraint on the UK hen harrier population. A significant negative relationship exists between the density of hen harrier persecution incidents and the proportion of successful nests on grouse moors. JNCC concludes that hen harriers are unlikely to achieve a favourable conservation status in England unless illegal persecution is considerably reduced. See http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/pdf/jncc441.pdf
3) Natural England’s view is that “.... the critically low breeding numbers and patchy distribution of the hen harrier in England is a result of persecution - both in the breeding season, and at communal roosts in the winter - especially on areas managed for red grouse or with game rearing interests”. See: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110320092856/http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/Images/hen_harrier_report221208_tcm6-9451.pdf
4) In 2010, the RSPB commissioned an independent series of surveys on Mull to investigate the extent of the economic benefits local businesses gain from this tourism. The main findings of this study were:
• £5 million of tourist spend on Mull is attracted every year by white-tailed eagles
• 110 jobs are supported by this spend each year
• £2.4 million of local income is supported each year
• economic benefits delivered by white-tailed eagles on the Isle of Mull have more than trebled since 2005.
5) The Protection of Animals Act 1911 made it illegal to place poisons out in the countryside where it could kill wild birds