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Wildlife Cirime Still a Hazard to Threatened Birds

Birds of Prey still targeted

In the 25th year of the Wildlife and Countryside Act gaining Royal Assent, a report on bird-related crimes across the UK in 2006, published by the RSPB, shows that wildlife crime is still a significant hazard to some of our most threatened birds.

The Society’s latest Birdcrime report shows 1109 reported incidents relating to wild birds in 2006, more than a 50 per cent increase on the previous year (726 incidents). However, investigators at the RSPB believe the increase in reported figures is partially a direct result of improved procedures for recording wildlife crimes, particularly aided by the creation of the National Wildlife Crime Unit in 2006.Of particular concern is the number of crimes against birds of prey. Data from the report identifies three counties which are the worst in England for reported persecution of birds of prey. There were 12 reported cases of persecution against birds of prey in Derbyshire, 11 in North Yorkshire and 10 in Northumberland.

Worryingly, these counties are important for a number of birds of prey, such as red kite, goshawk and hen harrier that are struggling to recover from many years of deliberate persecution. Because of the importance of north England for threatened species and the high levels of wildlife crime, the RSPB has employed a full-time investigations officer based in the region.Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s conservation director, said: “After 25 years of legal protection, we should be seeing dramatic cuts in wildlife crime. Thankfully, some birds of prey are heading towards recovery in the UK, but let us not forget that illegal slaughter of birds of prey that caused their extirpation and extinction in the first place. We mustn’t allow age-old attitudes towards birds of prey once more put these magnificent birds under threat.

Although the populations of some birds of prey are making progress, others are hampered by persecution. Dr Mark Avery added: “Visitors to some of our most beautiful countryside should be able to see birds of prey easily. In parts of the UK we have seen a welcome increase in the peregrine population, but this is not the picture everywhere; there are now more peregrines nesting in central London than in parts of the Peak District, for example.”Highlights from the 2006 report include:

* 185 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey. This year’s total includes the confirmed shooting of 28 individual birds of prey;

* 182 reports of poisoning incidents. This year’s total includes 85 confirmed incidents of abuse and seven confirmed incidents of illegal possession of pesticides, involving the confirmed poisonings of at least 95 individual birds or animals

* 475 reports of shooting and destruction of birds, other than birds of prey. This figure includes incidents of trapping and nest destruction

* 72 egg collecting incidents, including confirmed egg robberies from 16 nests of birds on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Birds listed under Schedule 1 are rare species afforded additional protection, which cannot be intentionally or recklessly disturbed when nesting.

The 1109 reported wildlife crime incidents comprise: 627 in England; 300 in Scotland; 143 in Wales; and 12 in Northern Ireland. Twenty-eight crimes have not been allocated to any single country.

The RSPB is asking members of the public who care about our birds of prey to pledge their support for an end to illegal killing at: http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdsofprey

4th July 2014