The Scottish Government has this morning published its second annual report on wildlife crime, relating to 2013.
Here is the press release:
Levels of wildlife crime in Scotland have remained static in the last 5 years according to a report published today.
The second annual wildlife crime report is the next step in developing the bigger picture of what offences are occurring in Scotland.
This report covers wildlife crimes ranging from badger baiting, raptor persecutions and damage to precious freshwater pearl mussels. Figures published earlier this year show raptor poisoning incidents have risen from three in 2012 to six in 2013.
The figures in the report show the largest volume of recorded wildlife crime in Scotland continues to be poaching related (fish, deer and coursing offences). These offences are both broad in nature and levels of cruelty and can often incorporate elements of organised crime including the use of illegal firearms or illegal gambling.
Police recorded crime figures for the 5 year period covered in this second wildlife crime annual report have risen slightly by 5.5 per cent, and this can be viewed against a similar increase of 6.5 per cent for guilty convictions over the same period.
Environment and Climate Change Minister and Chair of PAW Scotland Paul Wheelhouse said:
“As promised, this second report into wildlife crime in Scotland has been refined and made clearer for the reader.
“While poaching is the most commonly recorded offence, crimes against our beautiful birds of prey and pearl mussels remain the most serious in terms of damage to Scotland’s natural environment and our reputation. Though the numbers involved are relatively small, there is absolutely no room for complacency.
“Tackling wildlife crime is not just about law enforcement. We must continue to work with stakeholders to raise awareness and therefore ensure prevention, so that these crimes decrease and stop. We are not there yet, but this report will provoke discussion, inform policy and guide the actions of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland.
“As this is the second year of the report we don’t yet have a complete picture but by looking at the 5 year data sets collated in the report, we can begin to gain some insight. Key agencies and PAW Scotland stakeholders have assisted in the learning process and their support is greatly appreciated.
“Actions taken by the Scottish Government in 2013 and into 2014 have demonstrated the level of seriousness that this area of crime elicits. These are detailed in the report and are illustrative of the efforts going on, sometimes behind the scenes, to put a stop to the illegal killing of our cherished and exceptional Scottish wildlife.
“I remain unsympathetic to those who believe that crimes against wildlife are of little consequence and can somehow be justified. Offences can have massive ecological impacts whilst others involve great levels of cruelty and I will not accept this in a modern, vibrant Scotland.”
The opening statement is interesting and, we would argue, utterly misleading.
We’ve not had a chance to scrutinise the report in detail yet, but skimming through it we noticed the following…..
Look at the ‘summary data’ graph produced for ‘Recorded badger crimes, 2008-2013′:
According to this graph, only one badger crime was recorded by Police Scotland during 2012/2013. But then if you read on further in the report, you find the following:
So what this is saying is that more badger crimes were reported in 2013 (50, as opposed to 1!) but they aren’t included in this annual report because they might have occurred during a different time period (financial year), there might not have been sufficient evidence for the incident to be recorded as a crime, or the SSPCA might have dealt with it.
First off, why is it impossible for incidents that occurred during a financial year to be assimilated in to the annual report? Surely the month and year the incident was reported gets recorded?? How difficult is it to look down a spreadsheet and pick out the ones that were listed between Jan-Dec 2013?
Secondly, Operation Meles and Scottish Badgers clearly view the incidents as crimes. What criteria are they using to define a badger crime that Police Scotland aren’t using, and why?
And thirdly, why aren’t SSPCA data included in this Government report on wildlife crime incidents? Why rely just on Police Scotland data, when there is another statutory investigative authority collecting relevant data?
What’s the point of publishing a ‘summary data’ graph like the one above if you know fine well it’s NOWHERE NEAR representative of what’s actually going on?
If anything, this report just highlights the on-going issue of wildlife crime reporting and recording, revealing huge problems in our ability to understand the extent of wildlife crime. We clearly can’t use the data in these Government reports to analyse whether wildlife crime is decreasing, increasing, or remaining ‘static’, as the Government press release suggests.
We haven’t yet looked in detail at the raptor persecution data, but we did note the section on the PAW Scotland Raptor Group – a ‘partnership’ which began in 2009 and one we have slated in the past for being game-shooting-industry-heavy and basically doing naff all except providing a convenient publicity cover for certain organisations purporting to be against raptor persecution. Judging by the first paragraph in this latest report on the group’s activities, that criticism continues to be justified:
“The PAW Scotland Raptor Group continued to meet on a quarterly basis throughout 2013. The continuing evidence of raptor persecution kept the group busy dealing with a variety of issues which in turn prompted a fresh look at the overall direction. In light of this, the terms of reference were updated and refined. This process was a useful exercise to remind the group of its objectives and functions as a partnership, working with both stakeholders and law enforcement. It reinforced the aim of achieving the best outcomes in relation to raising awareness of and preventing raptor crime”.
As a side note on the PAW Raptor Group and what it actually does/achieves, we’ve noted with interest that this is the ONLY PAW Scotland subgroup that does not publish minutes or even sketchy notes from their frequent meetings. Why is that?
The one good thing that the PAW Raptor Group managed to do (and as we understand it, not all members of the ‘partnership’ were very happy about it) was to get the annual poisoning maps updated to include other types of raptor persecution crime such as shooting – that’s progress, although those maps still don’t include data on incidents where stashes of poison or poisoned baits have been discovered, or whether other (non-raptor) species have been found poisoned or where illegal traps have been found (see here).
Once again, the true picture about wildlife crime in Scotland is not being made available.
Download the report: Wildlife Crime in Scotland 2013 annual report