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
Buzzard found shot dead in Peak District
Image credit: Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group The body of the bird was discovered in woodland at Langsett, within the Peak District National Park, an area sadly tainted by systematic raptor persecution South Yorkshire Police and the RSPB are a...Posted 04/03/2022 by Guy Shorrock
Time to step up for birds of prey
By Katie-Jo Luxton, RSPB Global Conservation Director A recent UN report, commissioned by Defra, and subsequent responses to Parliamentary Questions continue to cast serious concerns about the resolve of the Westminster government to tackle raptor pe...Posted 15/02/2022 by Jenny Shelton
Keeper caught on camera killing buzzards in cage trap
By Tom Grose, RSPB Investigations Today a gamekeeper has received a total of 20 week’s imprisonment suspended for one year and a £1000 fine after he was caught on camera killing two buzzards in the space of two days, on a pheasant shoot in Nottingham...Posted 28/01/2022 by Jenny Shelton
Cage traps in the spotlight across the UK
At the end of this month a gamekeeper from Nottinghamshire will be sentenced for several offences including the intentional killing of two common buzzards which were caught in a crow cage trap during harsh weather in January last year. This, and thre...Posted 13/01/2022 by Guy Shorrock