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A Century of Protection…

…Yet the Poisoning Goes On

Exactly a century ago, the barbaric acts of putting baits laced with deadly poisons out into the countryside to kill wildlife was outlawed [note 1]. Yet despite this, a new report, published today (Thursday 3 November) by the RSPB, shows that this practice remains a major problem for the UK’s birds of prey.

Based on these shocking findings, the RSPB is calling on the UK government to outlaw the possession of these poisons in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Scottish Government has already put such measures in place.

The RSPB Birdcrime 2010 report reveals there were 128 reports of illegal poisoning in the UK, and the early figures for this year suggest a similar pattern. In 2010, 20 red kites, 30 buzzards, two goshawks, eight peregrines, five golden eagles, one white-tailed eagle and one sparrowhawk were found poisoned in the UK. The RSPB believes that the number of recorded incidents is way below the actual number.Martin Harper is the Conservation Director of the RSPB. He said: “It has been illegal to poison birds of prey since 1911. But in a bizarre quirk, it is not illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for individuals to possess some of the most deadly poisons, even though they have no legitimate use for them.”

The list of chemicals used to illegally poison birds of prey includes a host of agricultural pesticides, such as Carbofuran, Alphachloralose and Bendiocarb. The poisoner will usually douse the carcass of a pheasant, rabbit or a pigeon with the poison and leave the bait in a place where a bird of prey is likely to find it.

The RSPB is calling for the law to be enacted, which prevents individuals from having named poisons in their possession if they have no legal use for them. The RSPB’s Martin Harper added: “Our report shows there are a number of poisons commonly used to illegally poison wildlife for which those people responsible can have no legitimate use.”The previous Government accepted in 2006 that it was sensible to make it illegal for unauthorised people to possess these poisons, but despite the law being in place, the Government hasn’t listed the banned pesticides. This is despite the controls being in place in Scotland since 2005, where police find it a very useful tool in the fight against wildlife crime as 10 convictions have already been secured.

Richard Crompton – the Chief Constable for Lincolnshire Police – is the lead on wildlife crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers. Commenting on the issue of the illegal killing of birds of prey, he said: “Of particular concern are those offences that target or involve birds of prey and which affect the conservation status of those birds and it is quite right that the police should consider such offending as a matter of priority. The police service is absolutely committed to bringing those who commit wildlife crime to justice.”The RSPB’s Martin Harper added: “If this Government is serious about tackling illegal persecution of birds of prey, it really needs to start taking meaningful action. Putting additional controls on the possession of these common wildlife poisons would be a relatively easy first step, especially as these controls would not affect legitimate pesticide uses.”

Chris Dowse - the Farmers Weekly Countryside Farmer of the Year 2011- is the manager of a 6,000-acre estate in Lincolnshire. He said: “I love seeing red kites and buzzards over the estate. Only a couple of decades ago that would have been impossible and the recovery of these species is a testament to what can be achieved when we all work together. It is disappointing that some have not moved on from their outdated attitudes to birds of prey.

Anyone who persecutes birds of prey is not only breaking the law, they're preventing people seeing these magnificent birds and destroying the reputation of our entire community. All law-abiding gamekeepers and shooters should join me and step up with the RSPB to condemn anyone who breaks the law and kills birds of prey.”Poisoning, shooting and trapping all continue to affect birds of prey in many areas of the UK. Although the recovery of species like the buzzard have been helped by a reduction in persecution from in many lowland areas. However, in the UK’s uplands, particularly on land managed for intensive grouse shooting, little has changed in the last century and illegal persecution remains unacceptably common.

The RSPB’s Birdcrime report 2010 shows the highest number of reported incidents against birds of prey and owls was 54 in North Yorkshire. The Highlands reported 41 crimes against birds of prey and owls, while Derbyshire and Northumberland recorded 20 incidents each.

The reports received by the RSPB, included: 128 reports of wildlife poisoning; 227 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey; 40 reported egg-collecting incidents; 31 reports of illegal taking, possession or sale of birds of prey; 63 reports of illegal taking, possession or sale of wild birds, other than birds of prey.

4th July 2014