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Government Cuts and Kite Killings

Government cuts threaten rare birds

The RSPB fears some of our rarest birds could be at increased risk from nest robbers after the Government announced it was cutting back on a vital registration scheme. Some birds can fetch large sums and in the past, many have been stolen from the wild by criminals who then try to pass them off as legally held, captive bred birds. Currently anyone keeping such a bird has to register it with the government, making it much more difficult to deal in stolen birds.

Following a series of court cases using DNA evidence in the 1990s, the number of prosecutions involving two of the most valuable species, the peregrine and the goshawk, has fallen dramatically. The number of peregrine nests being robbed has also decreased. Now Biodiversity Minister, Joan Ruddock, has said the number of birds that have to be registered is to be slashed next month from over 50 species to just seven.Mark Avery, RSPB Director of Conservation, said: “The registration scheme was crucial in allowing the authorities to find birds they suspected of being taken from the wild so they could be DNA tested. We fear this could lead to a big resurgence of nest robberies like the incident in May at Beeston Castle in Cheshire where three peregrine chicks were stolen”.

After pressure from the RSPB and other wildlife experts, the government has decided to retain registration for peregrines and merlins, but has exempt any birds that are covered by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) certificates. These certificates allow an owner to sell birds or use them for commercial purposes, but crucially, they do not have to be renewed when a bird changes hands, making it almost impossible to trace.Duncan McNiven, RSPB Senior Investigations Officer said, “Allowing peregrines and merlins with CITES certificates to be exempt from the scheme does not address our main concern. Registering a bird is like registering a car; you know exactly who has the bird and where it is. A CITES certificate moves with the bird like a passport and so leaves no trail to follow if suspicions are raised at a later date. These birds have historically been taken from the wild to be laundered into the market for captive bred birds and sold for profit, so it is exactly these birds that we need the tightest controls on. If the government are going down this road, they must at the very least tighten up the CITES system.”

The RSPB is not alone in opposing the cutbacks in the registration scheme, which also has the backing of JNCC (the governments scientific advisors), the statutory nature conservation agencies (NE, SNH, CCW), the RSPCA, the Police, The Wildlife Trusts, the Northern England Raptor Forum and the Scottish Raptor Study Groups.Shock as red kite is killed - Senseless killing condemned by RSPB

A red kite has been found shot dead in Northern Ireland.

The grim discovery near the townland of Leitrim in South Co Down, comes just weeks after the bird was re-introduced to Northern Ireland after an absence of more than 200 years. RSPB Northern Ireland released 27 of the birds in July at the start of a three-year species reintroduction programme – the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

Tests carried out by the Police Service of Northern Ireland suggest the dead bird may have been killed deliberately. Both its wing tags and an identifying leg ring had been removed before the bird was recovered by the RSPB. The dead bird would have been no more than four months old.

Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation, said: “We are shocked and angered by the senseless killing of one of the recently released red kites. These magnificent birds were neither a threat to humans nor livestock, so we can only assume that whoever did this was either ignorant or gets a perverse sense of enjoyment from killing birds of prey. We believe that there will be much anger not only in Northern Ireland but right across the UK. Red kites are a globally threatened species and their reintroduction became a celebration of the return of an iconic species to Northern Ireland. Red kites were hunted to extinction in Ireland over 200 years ago, at a time when there was much misinformation about kites and birds of prey in general. In 2008, there can be no such excuses.

Dr Avery said: “RSPB Northern Ireland had been working tremendously hard behind the scenes for a number of years, to get the Red Kite Reintroduction Project off the ground, and we are determined to see it succeed. The message needs to be sent out that these birds should be a treasured addition to our countryside and not a target for illegal shooting.”

RSPB Northern Ireland will shortly be visiting schools to tell pupils all about the red kites. Sadly, one school will now be deprived the opportunity to name and track one of the birds through our ‘Adopt a Kite’ initiative.

PSNI Constable Alex Beck said: “Wildlife crime is taken seriously by the PSNI, and its significance can not be under estimated. Red Kites, like all wild birds, are protected by law under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. As such, any person involved in this type of crime could find themselves subject to a report to the Public Prosecution Service. I would ask anyone with any information to contact their local PSNI station on 0845 600 8000."

4th July 2014