Birdwatch News Archive
The poisoning of the radio tagged Golden Eagle, Alma, in July 2009 shocked conservationists, birders and general public alike, but such incidents continue. Photo: Ewan Weston (rspb-images.org).
Goverment urged to increase raptor protection
Posted on: 19 Oct 2012
As yet another raptor is found poisoned, the RSPB has welcomed a committee of MPs’ challenge to the government to stop the ‘systematic killing’ of birds of prey.
The charity is urging the government to implement recommendations from the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) Wildlife Crime report to ensure the protection of birds of prey, which are being killed illegally in large numbers every year in Britain.
The EAC assesses the performance of government policies and departments against sustainable development and environmental protection targets, and the current government has been found wanting in the enforcement of wildlife law to protect birds of prey. Also, several government ministers own or regularly use shooting estates, and could be viewed to have a clear conflict of interest while voting or legislating on the protection of our birds and wildlife.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, commented: “The sustained illegal killing of birds of prey across the UK is shocking, not only in its scale but also its audacity. Our own report on wildlife crime, Birdcrime, shows that in 2011 there were 202 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey, and 100 reports of poisoning incidents involving 70 individual birds or animals.
“We are delighted that the EAC shares our concerns about wildlife crime, particularly those affecting birds of prey. We urge the government to heed this advice and trust it will now take the lead on consigning these acts to history.”
RSPB figures published in the EAC report show that, of the 152 people who have been convicted of offences against all birds of prey since 1990, 70 per cent were gamekeepers employed on shooting estates. This backs up further official reports published by the Scottish government and Joint Nature Conservation Committee showing that illegal persecution is the main reason why British Golden Eagle and Hen Harrier populations are far from recovering to their full potential. Official figures show that upland England has the ecological capacity for more than 300 pairs of Hen Harrier to nest; this year only one pair bred.
A key theme of the EAC report is MPs’ concern over wildlife poisoning, which the committee notes the government could resolve in weeks. The placing of poisoned baits to kill birds of prey is indiscriminate and also poses a threat to other wildlife, and even pet cats and dogs. The RSPB has been lobbying since 2006 for restrictions on the possession of some poisons to those with legitimate need only.
The RSPB welcomes many of the EAC's recommendations, including that government considers introducing an offence of vicarious liability in relation to bird of prey persecution, making landowners in England and Wales responsible for the activities of gamekeepers and others who work on their land – this offence already exists in Scotland – and the recognition of the need for longer term funding of the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
The report has emerged as the charity launched an appeal for information about a Marsh Harrier found poisoned at Goxhill Marshes, north Lincolnshire earlier this year. The dead bird was discovered on top of a large bush on 27 May by a local birder who was monitoring a breeding pair of harriers in the area. The dead bird's spread wings suggested that the bird had fallen from the sky, and forensic analysis revealed that the bird was poisoned with Aldicarb, an agricultural pesticide that has been banned in the UK but is often used to illegally kill birds of prey through the lacing of bait. This incident is exactly the sort of crime which the EAC report says the government could resolve so rapidly.
Anyone with information can contact, RSPB Investigations Officer Mark Thomas on 01767 693 087 or at email@example.com. The RSPB is offering a £1,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.
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