Self-regulation has failed
Shot. Trapped. Poisoned. This is the sad fate of many birds of prey in the UK, particularly in upland areas. RSPB figures, population studies and the government’s own research agree that the problem is more concentrated in areas where land is managed for driven grouse shooting.
Killing birds of prey is a criminal offence. Yet in 2019 there were 85 confirmed incidents* of bird of prey persecution. You can read a breakdown of these figures in the Appendices. Victims included buzzards, red kites, peregrines, goshawks, hen harriers and many other protected species. These are only the incidents we know about: more birds will certainly have been killed and not found, or their deaths not reported.
This is unacceptable. Now is the time for action.
For 10 years, tackling raptor persecution has been a Wildlife Crime Priority in the UK. But since then little has changed, and hundreds of birds have paid the price. The shooting community has had decades to put their house in order, but self-regulation has failed. Where next?
This year, during COVID-19 lockdown, many of us turned to nature for solace. Yet others took it as an opportunity to ramp up their efforts to kill birds of prey without fear of being caught. The RSPB Investigations Team experienced its busiest ever spring, assisting numerous police investigations into bird of prey persecution, many of which were related to land used for shooting.
Facts are facts. Crime is crime. And we are calling time on criminals who wilfully destroy our national wildlife for their own gain.
What’s more, public outrage is growing and the shooting industry risks its own future if these crimes continue.
As we look to a new decade and rebuild our post-COVID-19 world, it’s time for UK governments to wake up to the public mood and implement urgent action to protect our birds of prey for generations to come. Nature needs us now more than ever.
*Note that data delays from various sources due to COVID-19 are likely to result in further incidents or details being added retrospectively.