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MPs urge Government to step up for birds of prey

Last modified: 18 October 2012

Flying red kite

Those who illegally kill wildlife don't want the public enjoying birds of prey, like this magnificent red kite

Image: Steve Round

The RSPB has today welcomed a committee of MPs’ challenge to the government to take action over the ‘systematic killing’ of birds of prey.

The RSPB trusts the Government will implement the recommendations from the Environmental Audit Committee’s [EAC] Wildlife Crime report to ensure the protection of birds of prey, which are being killed in large numbers each year in the UK.

It’s apparent that individual ‘bad apples’ are giving the wider gamekeeping community a bad name

Audacity

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s Conservation Director. Commenting on today’s EAC report, he said: “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 one hundred reports of poisoning incidents, involving 70 individual birds or animals.

“We are delighted that the Environmental Audit Committee shares our concerns about wildlife crime – particularly those affecting birds of prey. We urge the Government to heed this advice and we trust it will now take the lead on consigning these acts to history. The Committee has clearly signaled that the game is up for wildlife criminals and it’s time for a step change in wildlife crime enforcement.”

RSPB figures published in the EAC report, show that of the 152 people who have been convicted of offences against all birds of prey under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 since 1990. 70 per cent were gamekeepers employed on shooting estates. This backs up further official reports, published by the Scottish Government and JNCC, showing that illegal persecution is the main reason why UK golden eagle and hen harrier populations are not recovering to their full potential. Official figures show the potential for more than 300 pairs of hen harrier to nest in the English uplands. This year only one pair bred in England.

Martin Harper added: “It’s apparent that individual ‘bad apples’ are giving the wider gamekeeping community a bad name.”

Abuse

A key theme of today’s Environmental Audit Committee’s report is MPs’ concern over the abuse of poisons to persecute wildlife, which the committee notes the Government could resolve in weeks.

The placing of poisoned baits to kill birds of prey is indiscriminate and not only poses a threat to the birds themselves, but also 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 ensure that those with no legitimate need are prevented from owning them.

We welcome many of the Environmental Audit Committee’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.

•          The recognition of the need for longer term funding of the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

How you can help

Nature is in trouble – so millions of people are stepping up to help. Our wildlife has been disappearing at an alarming rate. But small steps make a big difference. If we all act together and get stuck in, we can save our wildlife.

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