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Rare Birds Threatened By Government Cuts?

Bird Register Vital to Fight Crime

The RSPB is concerned that government cost-cutting may lead to the scrapping of a scheme that has been one of the most effective weapons in fighting wildlife crime. The Society also notes that if the government axes the scheme it will do so against the recommendations of its own scientific advisors on wildlife matters, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), and the Police who have to enforce the law.

Currently anyone keeping our rarest birds, such as golden eagles or peregrine falcons, in captivity has to register the birds with the government, under Section 7 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

The registration scheme has proved to be a remarkably effective deterrent in preventing birds illegally stolen from the wild being laundered into the market for legally captive-bred birds. RSPB figures show that prosecutions involving two of the most valuable species, the peregrine falcon and the goshawk, have fallen dramatically since DNA evidence was first used to convict a number of persons in the mid-1990s. At the same time, robberies of peregrine nests reported to the RSPB have also fallen.Mark Avery, RSPB Director of Conservation, said: “Nest robbers used to be able to get away with their crimes, but DNA evidence has made all the difference as it tips the balance in favour of the enforcement authorities. It has been very successful at showing that birds claimed to be captive bred were actually taken from the wild. However, without the registration scheme we will not be able to locate the suspect birds and their claimed relatives for DNA testing. We fear this could lead to a big resurgence of nest robberies”

The RSPB is not alone in calling for the registration scheme to be saved. Apart from the JNCC, the scheme also has the backing of the statutory nature conservation agencies, the RSPCA, the Police, The Wildlife Trusts, the Northern England Raptor Forum and the Scottish Raptor Study Groups.Richard Brunstrom, the Chief Constable for North Wales, and the lead officer on wildlife crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said: “This is conservation legislation, with a clear purpose. It should not be weakened or dismissed in some dogmatic government anti-bureaucracy drive without real thought being given to the consequences, which could be catastrophic for species’ conservation.”

The government signalled its commitment to bird of prey conservation at the International Conference on Migratory Raptors at Loch Lomond earlier this week. Biodiversity minister Joan Ruddock is expected to make a decision on the future of the bird registration scheme shortly.

4th July 2014