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Shot, poisoned, persecuted - the killing of our iconic Welsh birds continues

Last modified: 06 November 2014

Buzzard perched on fence post, Wales

Image: Chris Gomersall

The story of illegal persecution of birds of prey in Wales continues as the latest RSPB’s Birdcrime report released today (30th October 2013) reveals. The RSPB Investigations Unit received reports of 46 incidents of wild bird crime occurring in 2013 in Wales, which accounted for 9% of the UK incidents reported in Birdcrime 2013. 

 

Across the UK, Wales had the fifth highest number of bird crime incidents in 2013, with Northern England, at the top with 113 acts of bird crime reported. Numbers of incidents in Powys accounted for nearly half of the reported acts in Wales (see note 1). There were 22 reported incidents of bird of prey persecution across Wales. The species which occurred most frequently in the confirmed persecution incidents was buzzard with 10 victims then red Kites with seven victims.  

 

A non-bird of prey incident includes two dead ravens found in a field in Anglesey. Results confirmed that the ravens were poisoned with pesticide fenthion – a substance used in sheep dip. However, an illegal use of this was established. 

 

41% of Wales’s reports were in Powys with nine confirmed case of poison abuse. All victims tested positive of bendiocarb, an acutely toxic carbamate insecticide which is lethal to birds and fish.

 

Stephen Bladwell, RSPB Cymru Biodiversity Manager said: “Wales is home to a magnificent variety of wild birds.  We are lucky enough to be able to see buzzards soaring across our countryside and for many of us who enjoy the outdoors, the majestic the flight of the red kite is a frequent sight, unlike elsewhere in the UK.  Even in urban areas, we have the chance to see the world’s fastest animal in action as peregrine falcons rear their young amongst the spires of our cathedrals. These are sights that we should all be able to enjoy. Unfortunately, we are being robbed of the chance to see these beautiful birds continue to flourish because of illegal persecution.”

 

The majority of landowners and land managers in Wales care for our countryside safely within the law, and these groups should be championed for the important work that they do to enhance our countryside. They play a vital role in advocating legal methods of sustainable upland management, that results in an income for the communities that rely on the upland environment and homes for the wildlife that specialise in these habitats.

Working in partnership with landowners and land managers, the RSPB is doing more than ever to help birds of prey, including satellite tracking threatened species, protecting their nests, monitoring and undertaking research, raising awareness among the public of the problems faced by these birds, and working with others to stop persecution. Tackling wildlife crime requires a joint approach.

RSPB Cymru would like to raise the awareness of illegal persecution, which has tarnished the beauty of our Welsh countryside for decades and continues to do so to this day. Wildlife crime officers do a great job in tackling these issues where they are able, but there is lack of funding and capacity in the sector in Wales as many incidents are thought to be going undetected and unreported.

 

Stephen Bladwell continues: “Effective leadership is needed to end to illegal persecution, but there is little evidence in Birdcrime 2013 to build public confidence that this is happening. Here in Wales we would like to see a real commitment across Government and civil society in order to make a serious and effective effort to finally consign wild bird persecution to the history books.”

 

National Context

Across the UK as a whole, the report reveals 164 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey including confirmed shooting of two hen harriers, two marsh harriers, five peregrines and 28 buzzards. It also included 74 reported incidents of wildlife poisoning and pesticide-related offences. Confirmed victims of poisoning include 30 buzzards, 20 red kites, a golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle. These figures are believed to represent only a fraction of the illegal persecution in the UK, with many incidents thought to be going undetected and unreported.

 

This report marks four years since over 230,000 people signed an RSPB pledge which was handed in to the UK Government, asking for action to put an end to bird of prey persecution. However, in the four years since around 560 birds of prey have been confirmed shot or destroyed. Public outrage has continued to grow in response to the recent horror of mass poisoning events and the latest Birdcrime Report shows there is no sign to this carnage ending.

 

 

Furthermore the RSPB believes that tougher legislation is needed to punish employers who turn a blind eye to staff committing wildlife crimes and are calling on the government to introduce the provision of vicarious liability, where employers would be legally responsible for the wildlife crimes committed by their employees.

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