Exactly a century ago, the barbaric acts of putting baits laced with deadly poisons out into the countryside to kill wildlife was outlawed [note 1]. Yet despite this, a new report, published today (Thursday 3 November) by the RSPB, shows that this practice remains a major problem for the birds of prey.

Based on these shocking findings, the RSPB is calling on the UK government to outlaw the possession of these poisons in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Scottish Government has already put such measures in place.

Bird of prey persecution is a significant area of bird crime found in the UK, and in addition to poisoning, acts of persecution can also include shooting, nest destruction and illegal trapping.

Tony Whitehead, spokesman for the RSPB in the South West Said “The RSPB’s Birdcrime report details deaths from poisoning of buzzards in Somerset and Devon and peregrines in Gloucestershire in 2010. This year we have already seen eight birds of prey killed by poisons including an unprecedented find of four dead goshawks in Devon. Sadly the south west appears to remain a hotspot for this sort of crime.”

The RSPB believes that the number of recorded incidents is way below the actual number and that they are indicative of a much wider problem.

Martin Harper is the Conservation Director of the RSPB. He said: “It has been illegal to poison birds of prey since 1911. But in a bizarre quirk, it is not illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for individuals to possess some of the most deadly poisons, even though they have no legitimate use for them.”

The list of chemicals used to illegally poison birds of prey includes a host of agricultural pesticides, such as Carbofuran, Alphachloralose and Bendiocarb. The poisoner will usually douse the carcass of a pheasant, rabbit or a pigeon with the poison and leave the bait in a place where a bird of prey is likely to find it.

The RSPB is calling for the law to be enacted, which prevents individuals from having named poisons in their possession if they have no legal use for them.  The RSPB’s Martin Harper added: “Our report shows there are a number of poisons commonly used to illegally poison wildlife for which those people responsible can have no legitimate use.”

The previous Government accepted in 2006 that it was sensible to make it illegal for unauthorised people to possess these poisons, but despite the law being in place, the Government hasn’t listed the banned pesticides. This is despite the controls being in place in Scotland since 2005, where police find it a very useful tool in the fight against wildlife crime as 10 convictions have already been secured.

Richard Crompton – the Chief Constable for Lincolnshire Police – is the lead on wildlife crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers. Commenting on the issue of the illegal killing of birds of prey, he said: “Of particular concern are those offences that target or involve birds of prey and which affect the conservation status of those birds and it is quite right that the police should consider such offending as a matter of priority.

 

“The police service is absolutely committed to bringing those who commit wildlife crime to justice.”

The RSPB’s Martin Harper added: “If this Government is serious about tackling illegal persecution of birds of prey, it really needs to start taking meaningful action. Putting additional controls on the possession of these common wildlife poisons would be a relatively easy first step, especially as these controls would not affect legitimate pesticide uses.”