Archive for August, 2011


RSPB launches ‘Save Birds of Prey’ fundraising campaign for children

The RSPB has launched a new fundraising campaign called ‘Save Birds of Prey’. It’s aimed at children and is encouraging them to help raise money to buy kit for ‘bird of prey detectives’.

It’s not just about raising funds. It’s about educating children about British raptors and the on-going criminal persecution of these birds. It’s the latest in a long line of RSPB efforts to raise awareness about this issue, following on from their successful petition last year which was signed by over 200,000 people wanting to see an end to illegal raptor persecution (see here).

RSPB press release about the new Save Birds of Prey Campaign here

RSPB Save Birds of Prey campaign webpage here


Police apparently fail to attend suspected multiple buzzard poisoning

Late last week, three dead buzzards were found next to a suspected poisoned rabbit carcass in an area with a long track record of raptor poisoning incidents. The person who found the dead birds took some photographs before returning home to alert the police. The police allegedly informed him later that night that they couldn’t attend, and instead they asked him to collect the evidence(!). When he returned to the scene, unsurprisingly the three dead buzzards and the suspected rabbit bait had vanished. A dead magpie, perhaps missed by the suspected poisoners, was recovered from the scene and has been sent for toxicology testing.

Clear cut evidence, if it was needed, that the ‘official’ annual poisoning figures released each year are indeed just the tip of the iceberg. These three buzzards will not be included because they’re unavailable for analysis.

The location where they were discovered was in the Drumbanagher/Poyntzpass area of Northern Ireland, an area known for commercial game-shooting interests. The following birds have all been confirmed poisoned in this area in recent years:

2006 – 1 x buzzard confirmed poisoned.

2008 – 4 x buzzards confirmed poisoned (alphachloralose).

2009 – 2 x red kites confirmed poisoned (alphachloralose). One survived, the second bird died.

2011 – 1 x buzzard found under a hedge, too badly decomposed for analysis. 3 x buzzards suspected poisoning – carcasses removed before police investigate. Dead magpie sent for analysis.

Thank you to the contributor who sent us this information.

UPDATE: The magpie tested positive for Alphachloralose.


Peregrine poisoning incidents not made public until 15 months later

An article published in the Scotsman last week reports on two peregrine poisoning incidents that took place in April and May 2010, that have only just been made public.

The birds were found dead at a quarry in the West Lothian town of Kirknewton, and both had been poisoned by the banned pesticide Aldicarb. The head of one of the peregrines had been severed and removed – possibly as a trophy.

The two incidents only came to light after the publication last week of the government’s 2010 poisoning report. Lothian & Borders police have not identified any suspects. Perhaps if they’d publicised the incidents at the time they occurred they may have got some leads.

Full story in the Scotsman here


More raptor poisonings in Ireland

Two young buzzards and a sparrowhawk have been illegally poisoned in Ireland. The bait this time? Live pigeons, that were smeared with the banned pesticide Carbofuran, tethered to the ground with wire with their wings clipped.

These disgraceful events were discovered last month near Roscrea, close to the Offaly and Tipperary border. Two young volunteers from the BirdWatch Ireland Raptor Conservation Project were alerted to the scene by a local farmer. They tell the story here, illustrated with some pretty graphic photographs.

How many more of these disgusting incidents have to be reported before there is a crackdown? Whether it be Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales. IT HAS TO BE STOPPED!

Thank you to the contributor who sent us this link.


Are the raptor poisoners in Scotland changing their bait?

Are the raptor poisoners in Scotland changing their bait? Maybe they are, according to an article published in the Guardian on Wednesday:

Rat poisons are posing a significant threat to wild animals because they are being misused or even deliberately abused to target birds of prey, wildlife experts fear.

Figures published on Wednesday on wildlife poisoning in Scotland identify legally available rodenticides as the cause of death of 15 birds of prey, including nine red kites and three sparrowhawks, and six mammals, including two dogs and a cat.

At least one case, where six red kite chicks were killed by extremely high levels of rat poison, has been identified as “suspicious” by the Scottish government’s testing laboratory. Several chicks were seen bleeding from their beaks before death.

The laboratory, Science and advice for Scottish agriculture (SASA), also said that it had detected rodenticide traces in 38% of the 214 dead animal livers it tested last year, with 32 buzzards, 17 red kites and 10 sparrowhawks testing positive. Kites and buzzards are scavengers, so will prey on dead or poisoned rats, but SASA believes its data suggests that rodenticides are now extremely widespread in the foodchain.

One of the chemicals found repeatedly by SASA is only licensed for indoor use [Brodifacoum]. Mike Taylor, head of pesticides and wildlife at SASA, said: “We’ve certainly got evidence of widespread exposure and it’s of concern, but it’s very difficult to enforce because it’s very difficult to collect dead or dying rats [to study].”

Alex Hogg, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association is reported as saying he had never been aware of rodenticides being  used to deliberately target birds of prey.

To read the full article in the Guardian, including quotes from the National Farmers Union Scotland and the RSPB, click here.

To download the advisory leaflet, ‘Rat Poison and the Threat to Wildlife’, click here.


Northern Ireland introduces prison sentences for raptor killers

Sentencing options for criminals convicted of wildlife crime offences in Northern Ireland, including the illegal killing of birds of prey, have been brought into line with the rest of the UK. For the first time, anyone convicted of a wildlife crime offence in Northern Ireland can face a maximum six month prison term. Fines have also been doubled up to a maximum £5,000.

There is a caveat, of course. Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: “For the first time custodial sentences will be an option for the most serious and persistent offenders“. He doesn’t quantify what a ‘serious’ offender is, nor what constitutes a ‘persistent’ offender.

Whilst the new penalties are a welcome sign from a society no longer willing to accept illegal raptor persecution, it’s hoped that those responsible for interpreting and enforcing the law in Northern Ireland have a better success rate than their colleagues in England and Scotland. Even though a custodial sentence has been an option for some time in these countries, so far nobody has received one for a raptor persecution crime, despite some truly appalling incidents of illegal raptor killing.

Full story available on the BBC website here


Scotland’s shame: 2010 poisoning figures published

Today the Scottish government has published its latest report on animal poisoning in Scotland. The figures relate to recorded incidents in 2010 and demonstrate a sharp rise in the number of wildlife poisonings, including the widespread illegal poisoning of raptors. The report shows that 69% of all ‘abuse’ cases involved the poisoning of birds of prey, covering a wide area including Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, Highland, Lothian, Strathclyde and Tayside. The illegal pesticide Carbofuran was detected in half of these incidents. The raptors that tested positive for poisons included 40 buzzards, 4 golden eagles, 1 sea eagle, 1 kestrel, 5 barn owls, 2 tawny owls, 2 peregrines, 21 red kites and 11 sparrowhawks.

Unsurprisingly, some are trying to play down the appalling statistics. The Scottish Land and Estates Chairman, Luke Borwick, is reported to have said that the organisation is working hard to reduce such incidents “…and there is evidence these joint efforts are beginning to pay off“. He was referring to what he called a “significant decrease” (in illegal raptor poisonings) in the first half of 2011. The Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson also made the same comment. Unfortunately, we are not able to make the assessment for ourselves because the published government figures for 2011 only cover the period January to March 2011. However, the figures for this three-month period tell a very different story to the one that Luke and Stewart are pushing: they include 3 buzzards, 1 golden eagle, 1 red kite and 2 peregrines all illegally poisoned in the first three months of 2011 (see here for earlier report). Hmmm.

There are other reactions from various bodies, including the RSPB, the Police and the Scottish Environment Minister – these can be read on the BBC website here and the Scottish government website here.

To read the depressing SASA government report with all the gory details, click here.

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