The RSPB’s 32nd Birdcrime report reveals 137 known, confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution in 2020 across the UK – the highest in 30 years
- Poisoning and shooting were the cause of raptor crimes in Wales, with the five recorded cases believed to be the tip of the iceberg
Produced annually by the RSPB’s Investigations Unit, Birdcrime is the UK’s only full data set on confirmed incidents of raptor persecution - namely the illegal shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds of prey.
Five cases were reported in Wales, all in Powys with three cases related to poisoning whilst the other two cases were shootings. Of all counties in the UK, Powys has recorded the third highest number of confirmed incidents over the last decade, with 33 cases.
Red kites were the main targets in Wales with four victims in two cases. The other victims were a goshawk and a raven. The other victim was a golden eagle, which received widespread attention as it was the lone female that had survived for approximately 11 years in the wild in Wales, having escaped from captivity. A post-mortem revealed that she had suffered a gunshot injury, although this was not the cause of her death.
Based on population studies of species such as hen harrier, it’s believed that the true number of raptors killed is far greater, with many crimes going undetected and unreported.
The report also coincides with a 30-year review of crimes against raptors by RSPB Cymru, published in August 2021. Whilst the theft of eggs and chicks has almost ceased since the 1990s, persecution has seen a marginal increase over the last decade. The main concern is the increased number of poisoning incidents. Laying poison baits in the open has been illegal since 1911, but the review found that it remains a problem in the Welsh countryside. All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. Yet in 2020, there were only two prosecutions for raptor persecution offences in the UK.
Julian Hughes, Head of Species RSPB Cymru:
“Good progress has been made over the past three decades to reduce the rate of crimes against our majestic birds of prey. The dramatic reduction in the theft of eggs and chicks shows that tougher action really does work. This has helped the return of birds such as red kites, which were once on the brink of extinction. However, the rise in persecution, and especially poisoning cases, is a big worry. We welcome the commitment made by Welsh Government to improve co-ordination between enforcement agencies to root out these deplorable acts of crime against wildlife.”
Copy of the report is available upon request.
Last Updated: Tuesday 2 November 2021