Despite legal protection, every year the RSPB receives over 500 reports of wild bird crime, with many more reported to the police and other agencies.
The RSPB's Investigations Section's main role is to support the statutory authorities by providing advice, expert witness and investigative help on wild bird crime.
It works closely with the police Wildlife Crime Officers (WCOs), the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Procurators Fiscal and HM Revenue and Customs. The RSPB has not taken a private prosecution since 1992.
The RSPB actively supports the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) by chairing the Publicity Sub-group and sitting on the Forensic Working Group
The RSPB Investigations Section has been involved in a range of issues to improve wildlife law enforcement and has had many successes, for example:
- Creation of the police WCO network. The Section had a major input into the development and subsequent success of this network.
- Organising the police WCO annual conference. The Section organised the WCO conference every year since its inception in 1989 until handing it over to the police and Defra in 1997.
- Maintaining a unique wild bird crime database.
- Taking the first case involving DNA genetic fingerprinting of birds. In 1991 the RSPB used a commercial laboratory for DNA testing to prove a genetic link did not exist between four young goshawks and a captive adult female claimed to be their parent. Since then DNA testing has become established as an important tool in the investigation of wild bird offences.
- Production of Legal Eagle, a quarterly newsletter for police WCOs and others involved in wild bird law enforcement.
- Production of Birdcrime, an annual report that monitors trends in wild bird crime and highlights major issues of concern. This is the only national record of wild bird offences in the UK.
- Working in Europe. The Section was instrumental in forming the Eurogroup Against Bird Crime, which is a network of organisations across Europe that works to improve wild bird legislation enforcement, particularly in cases of cross-border offences.
How you can help
Have you seen a crime against a wild bird? Use this form to report a wildlife crime to us.
Our latest investigations
Two shot buzzards found in Northumberland 'problem area'
The RSPB is demanding that the problems in our uplands are urgently addressed as raptor persecution continues, seemingly unchecked. Today, Northumbria Police issued news of two illegally shot buzzards, found close together in Northumberland, both adj...Posted 22/05/2019 by Jenny Shelton
Raven found shot in Cheshire
This press release has gone out today 16/05/2019: A protected raven has been found illegally shot near Delamere Forest, Cheshire, triggering a police investigation. The bird was found in a field by a man walking his dog along the edge of the forest. ...Posted 16/05/2019 by Jenny Shelton
Poisoned raven found in Peak District National Park
The countryside is somewhere everyone should be able to enjoy. Getting outdoors is good for our health and wellbeing, and connects us with nature – a connection we need to hang on to more than ever these days. National Parks should offer the perfect ...Posted 14/03/2019 by Jenny Shelton
Raptors killers – the arms race
In the long and sorry history of raptor persecution those involved have used a wide range of methods to carry out their dark deeds. Traditionally, this has involved an array of firearms, traps and poisons. During my 27 years working with the RSPB the...Posted 12/03/2019 by Guy Shorrock