Posts Tagged ‘red kite

11
May
20

North Yorkshire police warn public of potential poisonous baits at Pateley Bridge

North Yorkshire Police are warning the public of potential poisonous baits at Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale following the suspected poisoning of two dogs in April.

The following message was emailed to members of the local community last week:

This suspected poisoning incident was referred to by the Police in a recent Yorkshire Post article about raptor persecution in the area:

Nidderdale residents will be used to receiving these warnings; there have been several in recent years (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here, here) as illegal poisonous baits have been used routinely to kill off red kites inside this AONB and the surrounding area (e.g. see here).

Dog walkers are urged to keep their pets under close control and report anything suspicious to the police. DO NOT HANDLE A SUSPECTED POISONOUS BAIT – some of the chemicals used as poison are so dangerously toxic they have been banned from use in the UK.

04
May
20

Birds of prey still being killed despite lockdown

Since lockdown began in March there’s been widespread concern that the illegal persecution of birds of prey would escalate, especially on grouse moors (e.g. see here) where fewer people are around to witness the crimes and/or the aftermath.

The UK’s grouse moors have been the epicentre of raptor persecution crimes for years; Mark Avery astutely described the National Parks that are dominated by grouse moors (e.g. Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors, Peak District, Cairngorms) as “massive wildlife crime scenes” (see here).

But of course, the threat to UK raptors isn’t just restricted to areas managed for driven grouse shooting. These birds are targeted and killed in the lowlands too, and quite often (although not exclusively) on land being managed for pheasant and partridge shooting.

Just two weeks ago a red kite was reported as shot on land managed for pheasant shooting, with another two birds also suspected to have been shot at the same location (see here).

It seems that the conservationists’ concerns were well founded. Despite the country being in the midst of a national crisis, and despite the shooting industry’s claims to have a ‘zero tolerance’ of raptor persecution (see here), the killing continues.

Police Supt Nick Lyall, Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG, the so-called partnership that aims to tackle the illegal killing of raptors) tweeted this yesterday:

Nick singles out North Yorkshire but we’re also aware of a spate of other suspected raptor persecution crimes during lockdown, in a number of other counties across England and Scotland. Most of these have yet to be publicised as police investigations continue but hold on your hats, folks, when they are finally publicised the list is going to be long and damning.

30
Apr
20

Satellite-tagged red kite ‘disappears’ on grouse moor in North Pennines AONB

Press release from RSPB (30 April 2020)

Red kite vanishes in suspicious circumstances

Durham Police, the RSPB, the North Pennines AONB Partnership and Friends of Red Kites are appealing for information following the disappearance of a red kite in County Durham.

The young bird was fitted with a satellite tag at Rowlands Gill, near Gateshead in June 2019 by Friends of Red Kites (FoRK) with NERF support. It has been monitored since by the RSPB.

[Red kite ‘KK’ being fitted with a satellite tag as a nestling. Photo via RSPB]

The bird, nicknamed ‘KK’, toured northern England, making it as far as the Peak District, then returned north and has been faithful to the Derwent Valley region ever since.

KK’s tag had been functioning normally until it suddenly and unexpectedly stopped transmitting. The last fix came from an area of driven grouse moor near the Derwent Reservoir on 17 April. It has not been heard from since.

Emma Marsh, RSPB England Director, said: “If you’ve seen a red kite wheeling high overhead you’ll know that they’re splendid birds. They enrich our landscapes and bring joy to many.

When a tag which has been functioning reliably suddenly cuts out, this gives us immediate cause for suspicion. The additional fact that the tag’s last data fix came from an area dominated by driven grouse shooting rings serious alarm bells.

The connection between driven grouse shooting and the illegal killing of birds of prey has been well documented. Sudden, unexplained disappearances of tagged birds of prey are happening far too often in these landscapes. Satellite tags continue transmitting even after death, so if this bird had died naturally we would expect to be able to recover it.”

Red kites are specially protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) which makes it an offence to deliberately kill or injure this species. Those found to have done so could be given an unlimited fine and/or a prison sentence.

Harold Dobson, spokesman for the Friends of the Red Kites, said: “It’s 15 years since the first red kites were re-introduced in the Lower Derwent Valley. They are faring well in the valley itself and we enjoy watching these impressive, majestic birds of prey.

As mainly scavengers, the red kites are of no threat to anyone. However, we fear that human persecution is preventing them from naturally expanding their range: since 2010, seven red kites have been found poisoned or shot near the Derwent Gorge and surrounding Durham Moorland. We fear that this may be the tip of the iceberg and that many more persecuted kites are never found.”

Inspector Ed Turner, the lead for wildlife and rural crime for Durham Constabulary said: “The fate of this red kite is not yet clear, we are working with the RSPB to establish what has happened since its transmitter unexpectedly stopped on 17 April 2020. Until we can rule out the possibility that a crime has not been committed, then we will be taking this matter very seriously and if anyone has any information please contact the police quoting 22042020-0078.

Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director of the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: “Though the fate of this bird isn’t certain, the fact that it was carrying two reliable trackers means this looks very like a crime may have been committed. This is an area where a significant number of kites have been shot or poisoned and we’d really appeal to anyone who knows anything that might help shed light on this incident to come forward.”

If you have any information about this incident, please contact the police on 101, quoting the reference number 22042020-0078. Alternatively, if you have information about birds of prey being killed or targeted near you, please call the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

ENDS

22
Apr
20

Red kite found shot dead on land managed for pheasant shooting in Wales

Three red kites have been found dead on land managed for pheasant shooting in Wales.

On Sunday (19 April 2020) two corpses were found by a member of the public and photographed but then ‘disappeared’ before they could be collected. A third corpse was found by TV presenter Iolo Williams and an x-ray confirmed it had been shot.

[The shot red kite found by Iolo Williams]

The RSPB and Dyfed-Powys Police have today issued the following appeal for information:

RED KITES SHOT IN POWYS

Police and the RSPB are appealing for information regarding the shooting of one red kite, and the suspected shooting of two more in Wales.

A protected red kite was found shot dead in Tregynon, near Newtown, Powys on Sunday 19 April 2020. At least two more are suspected to have been illegally killed in the area, which is managed for pheasant shooting.

A local woman found the two dead red kites while out walking with her family on 19 April. She photographed the birds and planned to return the next day.

She posted her photographs on social media, where they came to the attention of wildlife presenter Iolo Williams. The former RSPB employee ventured out that same evening to the location the birds had been seen, but when he arrived the bodies had disappeared. However, he discovered a third bird lying dead on the ground. The body was x-rayed and found to contain three pieces of shot in its chest and each of its wings.

Police officers conducted a patrol of the area but uncovered no leads. They are now appealing to the public for information.

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

Julian Hughes, head of species at RSPB Cymru, said: “Red kites have made a comeback in Wales after a collaborative effort by farmers, conservationists and communities. For most of us, the sight of these glorious birds – recognisable by their long wings and forked red tail – is a source of joy. They should be celebrated, not persecuted“.

Iolo Williams, broadcaster and former RSPB species officer, said: “The red kite is Wales’ national bird and many of us remember it being incredibly rare and confined to mid-Wales. Hundreds of landowners, wardens and volunteers worked incredibly hard for so many decades to ensure the kite population thrived that I am both baffled and disgusted by this horrific incident.”

PC Charlie Jones, of the Dyfed-Powys Rural Crime Team, said: “It is illegal to intentionally harm or kill a red kite, or any other bird of prey, making this an act of criminality. Wales is home to a significant population of breeding red kites and therefore we take any offences against them very seriously, and wish to hear from anyone who has information which may help with our investigation.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Dyfed-Powys Police on 101.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, email RSPB Investigations on crime@rspb.org.uk or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx

ENDS

15
Apr
20

Red kite shot and killed in Leeds

West Yorkshire Police press release (15 April 2020)

[Red kite: photographer unknown]

APPEAL TO PUBLIC AFTER RED KITE SHOT & KILLED IN LEEDS

Police are appealing for information after a protected bird of prey was shot and killed in Leeds.

The red kite was found by a walker on the evening of Friday, April 10, in the Carlton Moor area, close to Leeds Bradford Airport and the High Trees Garden Centre, in Otley Old Road.

He retrieved the dead bird and contacted Yorkshire Red Kites who, with support from the Harewood Estate, arranged for x-rays which showed the presence of at least 12 shotgun pellets.

Officers from Leeds District Wildlife and Rural Crime Team are investigating the incident and would like to hear from anyone who witnessed anything suspicious in the area around the time.

They are also calling on the public to assist their work to combat offences against birds of prey by supporting the national Operation Owl initiative which helps people to recognise and report any suspicious activity and play their part in bringing those responsible for such crimes to justice.

Sergeant Dave Lund, West Yorkshire Police Force Wildlife Officer, said: “People will be understandably appalled that someone has shot and killed one of these majestic birds that are such welcome sight in our skies.

We are investigating this incident and would like to hear from anyone who saw anything unusual in the area or who has any information that could assist in identifying the person responsible.

We need the public to be our eyes and ears in support of our work to tackle wildlife crimes such as this and we would encourage anyone who does pick up on anything in their area to report it so we can take appropriate action alongside our partner agencies.”

Since their reintroduction into Yorkshire, starting in 1999, many kites have been shooting victims. At least 13 are known to have died of their injuries whilst several others either recovered or had been victims of illegal poisoning but had been found to be carrying lead shot from non-fatal shooting incidents.

Doug Simpson, Yorkshire Red Kites Co-ordinator, said “It appears inevitable that we will continue to have a small number of people who persist in flouting the law which protects our wildlife. It once again raises the question of the suitability of some people to be licensed to own guns. This is not the first time that kites have been targeted at their nests – a particularly sickening and cowardly thing to do.

Counting this latest victim, no fewer than 47 Red Kites have been confirmed as victims of illegal persecution since releases began in Yorkshire in 1999. That roughly half of them have been found by people out walking in the countryside shows the importance of everyone keeping their eyes open for anything untoward and reporting it.”

Anyone with information which could relate to this incident is asked to call West Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting crime reference 13200186201 or online via www.westyorkshire.police.uk/101livechat

Anyone wishing to remain anonymous can call the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

ENDS

09
Mar
20

Red kite found shot in Herefordshire

The RSPB and West Mercia Police are appealing for information after a dead red kite was discovered in Herefordshire on New Years Eve.

[The shot red kite. Photo from RSPB]

[Wigmore, Herefordshire]

From an RSPB press release, issued 6 March 2020:

A red kite was found dead in a field in Wigmore, Herefordshire on New Years Eve 2019 by a member of the public. The RSPB and West Mercia Police were notified. When the police collected the bird, they noticed a large hole in the bird’s body.

The RSPB arranged for a post-mortem of the bird, and the results concluded that it had been shot, and that ‘shooting with a single projectile is by far the most likely cause’ of death. Witnesses also confirmed they had heard shooting in the area the day before.

ENDS

If anyone has any further information please contact West Mercia Police on 101 or fill in the RSPB’s confidential online reporting form here

[The shot red kite, photo from RSPB]

18
Dec
19

Gamekeepers caught with banned poisons should receive mandatory jail sentence

Yesterday the Scottish Rural Affairs & Environment Minister, Mairi Gougeon, gave evidence to the cross-party Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) committee which is currently considering Stage 1 of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill.

We’ll come back to the wider evidence session in another blog because there were some interesting and important discussions but one point raised deserves an immediate reaction:

Possession of banned poisons.

Here’s the mini transcript:

ECCLR Committee Member Rachael Hamilton MSP: I will go back to the categorisation of wildlife offences and the different tiers of the penalty system. We heard evidence that perhaps possession of illegal pesticides should be categorised as a tier 1 offence, because they are currently illegal anyway. Do you have any comments on that point and do you have any plans to have an amnesty on illegal pesticides prior to the bill being passed? People should not possess illegal pesticides anyway, so using them in connection with animal crimes should attract the highest and severest category of penalty.

Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon: That has been the feeling behind that issue. As you said, possession of such pesticides is already illegal and there are offences in place to deal with that individual issue separately. Using such pesticides as part of another offence would attract the higher penalty. As they are already illegal and there are offences attached to them, using them in relation to any other offences could well attract severe penalties.

In relation to your amnesty point, I would be happy to consider looking at the matter.

Scottish Government Wildlife Management Team leader Leia Fitzgerald: Just to clarify, there was a previous amnesty, which was quite successful and resulted in a lot of pesticides being handed in. We could speak to stakeholders about whether that is something that could be done again. We would hope that we got all of what we needed after the last amnesty, but we can look at the matter.

Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon: I will happily get back to the committee and let you know how we get on with that.

ENDS

Is the Scottish Government seriously considering yet another amnesty for banned poisons, which would be the third amnesty in the 15 years since it became an offence to even possess these deadly toxins, let alone use them? (The Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005).

The first amnesty took place in 2011 (see here), six years after the ban was first introduced. The second amnesty came four years later in 2015 (see here).

Since then poisoning crimes have certainly dropped in Scotland, probably thanks to the increase in satellite-tagged raptors, whose tags lead researchers to the poisoned corpses that would otherwise remain undetected, and also due to the introduction of vicarious liability legislation in 2012 which made it possible for landowners to be prosecuted for raptor persecution crimes committed by their gamekeeper employees. However, these poisoning crimes haven’t been totally eradicated and we’re still reading reports about illegally-poisoned birds (and some dogs) that have died after ingesting banned poisons in Scotland including some that were killed this year, and some even inside the Cairngorms National Park (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here).

[An illegally-poisoned buzzard found on the boundary of a sporting estate in Perthshire. Contributed photo]

How many more chances is the Scottish Government planning on giving to these criminals? How many more get-out-of-jail-free cards will be dished out?

Why can’t the Scottish Government, 15 years on, implement a zero tolerance policy on this vile and primitive crime that not only risks the lives of wildlife and domestic animals but puts humans at risk as well? In the most recent criminal case, a Scottish gamekeeper was found with two cartons containing the banned poison Carbofuran. He was carrying one of these containers in his bum bag – presumably he wasn’t just taking the container out for company every day – and yet 180 schoolchildren were put at risk when they attended the grouse shooting estate on an officially-sanctioned school trip. Can you believe that? The gamekeeper was convicted for possession (along with a litany of other wildlife offences) and received a community payback order. No fine, no jail sentence, no deterrent whatsoever. Compare and contrast to how illegal poisoners are dealt with in Spain (see here, here and here).

The criminals who persist with such reckless activity in Scotland deserve a mandatory custodial sentence – there can be no more excuses, no more discussion and certainly no more amnesties.

Enough.

03
Dec
19

Poisoned red kite in Nidderdale: two local businesses put up a reward

Following the news last week that yet another red kite had been found poisoned in Nidderdale (see here), the Northern England Raptor Forum (NERF) has published a statement.

It’s well worth a read, here.

[A poisoned red kite]

A selected quote from the NERF statement:

‘The population of Pateley Bridge and surrounding area is less than 3,000 people. Whoever put the poisoned bait out in the open countryside and killed the Red Kite is most likely to live locally, shop locally, use the local pub and may have children or grand-children in the local school. In short if you live in the Pateley Bridge area the person indiscriminately putting poisoned baits out in your countryside, putting your life, the life of your pets and local wildlife at risk is your neighbour.

In addition to the physical threats posed by the use of dangerous poison there is also the reputational damage caused to this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and local businesses. This potential reputational damage was recognised by Pateley Bridge businessman Keith Tordoff in 2017 when he and a fellow businessman, jointly offered a reward for information following the unlawful killing of another Red Kite. On that occasion the bird was shot near Greenhow‘.

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

A few days ago RPUK was contacted by a local businessman from Pateley Bridge who has once again put up a £1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspected poisoner(s). The businessman prefers to stay anonymous at this point for fear of retribution but he told us that another local businessman has also agreed to put up a £1,000 reward if the information received leads to a conviction. There may well be other members of the local community stepping forward. The businessmen have been in contact with the RSPB and North Yorkshire Police to facilitate the reward process.

Ongoing concern about the level of wildlife crime in Nidderdale has been raised by residents and visitors alike for a number of years, particularly on the extent of illegal raptor persecution and such is the strength of feeling that the Nidderdale AONB Partnership has now included a specific objective on raptor conservation in its AONB Management Plan. As part of this work, an evidence report was published in September 2019 which placed grouse moor management firmly in the frame.

Incidentally, those of you who read last week’s report on this latest poisoned red kite will know that there was an inexplicable eight-month delay between the discovery of the poisoned red kite and a police appeal for information. It was the latest in a number of cases (as yet unpublished) in North Yorkshire that have caused raised eyebrows, not least because of the previous exemplary efforts (e.g. here) of the North Yorkshire Police Rural Task Force, a team which includes some of the UK’s most dedicated and knowledgeable police officers tackling raptor persecution crimes through Operation Owl.

Last weekend at the annual Wildlife Crime Enforcers Conference we were able to have some full and frank discussions about recent events, including the delayed appeal for information about this poisoned red kite, with some senior members of North Yorkshire Police. The response was impressive, the explanations plausible (it would be inappropriate to provide detail here), the admission of mistakes made admirable, and the determination and commitment to target the offenders was unquestionable.

We look forward to being able to report some more success stories from the UK’s worst raptor persecution hotspot.

28
Nov
19

Yet another red kite found illegally poisoned in Nidderdale AONB

Press release from RSPB (28 November 2019)

Red Kite poisoned in Nidderdale

North Yorkshire Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after a protected red kite was found poisoned in an area of North Yorkshire with the worst record for the illegal killing of birds of prey in England.

A member of the public found the bird dead under a tree in Blazefield, just outside Pateley Bridge, Nidderdale in March 2019. North Yorkshire Police submitted the bird to be tested for poison, and results show the bird tested positive for the insecticide bendiocarb. This is one of the top five most commonly abused substances involved in raptor poisoning cases. It is also extremely toxic to people and pets.

Killing a bird of prey is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Anyone found responsible for this bird’s death faces an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in jail. The police are now appealing for information. 

[A dead red kite]

[Blazefield, sandwiched between some of the most notorious wildlife-killing grouse moors in the UK]

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “Poison baits deliberately placed out in the open, where anyone could find them, puts people, pets and wildlife in danger. Based on government toxicology data, from 2009 to 2018 the RSPB recorded an astonishing 369 incidents of the illegal use of pesticides to kill or target birds of prey. Bendiocarb, a very toxic insecticide, is something we come across again and again being used for this purpose.”

According to data collated by the RSPB, the Nidderdale area – which is dominated by extensive driven grouse shooting – is the worst black spot for raptor persecution crimes in England, clocking up more incidents in the last seven years than anywhere else.

In September 2019, the Nidderdale AONB published their ‘bird of prey evidence report’ which highlighted the impact of illegal persecution upon the protected landscape’s birds of prey. The report stated that ‘The spread of red kites into the AONB is being restricted by illegal persecution’.

In August 2019, North Yorkshire Police appealed for information after a red kite was found shot and also poisoned in Wath, near Harrogate, within the Nidderdale AONB. This bird contained two pieces of shot, one of which was from an older injury which it had survived, indicating it had been shot on two occasions. But it was also found to contain a cocktail of highly toxic pesticides, and this was deemed the ultimate cause of death.

And in April 2019, a satellite-tagged hen harrier named River was found dead on Nidderdale’s Swinton Estate, following a search by North Yorkshire Police and RSPB Investigations. She too had been illegally shot.

Howard Jones added: “Nidderdale has become a death zone for birds of prey. Our message to the community is this: If you enjoy spending time in the countryside, please be vigilant. Report anything suspicious. If you have information about someone killing birds of prey, please speak out. This is happening on your doorstep, to your wildlife. Let’s make it known that this barbaric, relentless destruction of wildlife is not something North Yorkshire will tolerate.

“Finally, if you are being instructed to kill birds of prey, please do not break the law on someone else’s behalf. Call our confidential hotline on 0300 999 0101.”

ENDS

Eight months for this appeal for information to emerge? That’s pathetic. Let’s hope there was at least a local appeal for information – a spokesperson from North Yorkshire Police is quoted in this article in today’s Yorkshire Post saying “Despite extensive investigations……” so perhaps this included warnings to the local community that some criminal psychopath had been laying out deadly poisons in the area. Also interesting to note that the Yorkshire Post article says the banned poison Isophenphos was also detected in the kite’s carcass.

Regular readers of this blog will be only too aware of Nidderdale AONB’s reputation as a massive wildlife crime scene. We’ve blogged about it many, many times including the poisoning and shooting of red kiteshen harriersbuzzardsmarsh harriers on Nidderdale grouse moors (as reported by the AONB partnership in September 2019). We’ve also seen how the local community is turning against the criminals in their midst which is hardly surprising when according to the Chair of the Nidderdale AONB these crimes are “starting to have a damaging effect on tourism businesses”. 

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Here’s a map we produced a while ago showing the boundary of the Nidderdale AONB (yellow line), illegally killed red kites (red dots), missing satellite-tagged hen harriers (orange stars), shot hen harrier Bowland Betty (red star), shot hen harrier River (red triangle, which we now know should be closer to the red star on the Swinton Estate).

UPDATE 3 December 2019: Poisoned red kite in Nidderdale – two local businesses put up a reward (here)

08
Nov
19

Raptor persecution in Northern Ireland: ten year review and new strategies to tackle these crimes

Press release from the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAW NI):

Birds of prey to be safeguarded by new technology

Satellite tracking devices are to be fitted onto birds of prey and nesting site surveillance installed, in the latest fight against wildlife crime.

‘Hawk-Eyes’, an advanced technology project, is being launched by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAW NI), alongside their ‘10 Years of Persecution’ Report.

The report reveals that from 2009-18, there were a total of 72 incidents of confirmed raptor persecution in Northern Ireland, resulting in the death or injury of 66 birds of prey and the destruction of two nesting sites.

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Wildlife Officer Dr Jon Lees said buzzards and red kites are amongst the most common victims of persecution: “Sadly, a small proportion of our population still seem to think it’s ok to destroy these magnificent birds at the expense of the environment and the rest of the community.

“Raptors such as buzzards, red kites, peregrine falcons and Sparrowhawks, have been illegally targeted right across Northern Ireland to such an extent some areas are at risk of losing their natural top predators,” explained Dr Lees.

The methods these criminals use, such as poisoned bait, are often highly dangerous, putting livestock, pets and people at risk. These offenders care little for people’s safety. We rely heavily on the vigilance of the public to report these crimes and any evidence to the police or Crimestoppers,” Dr Lees added.

The “Hawk-Eyes” project, is funded and supported by the Department of Justice, – Assets Recovery Community Scheme (ARCS) and run through PAW NI, which brings together government Departments, PSNI and other enforcement agencies, environmental organisations, animal welfare groups and country sports associations with the common goal of combating wildlife crime through publicity, education and campaigning.

Some of the birds’ tracking information will be publicly available on the project website at http://wildlifecrimeni-hawkeyes.com, which will allow people to help protect these special birds by reporting such crimes.

PAW NI encourages people across Northern Ireland to be vigilant. If anyone sees or knows of any wildlife crime, report it to the PSNI by calling 101 or, in an emergency, 999. Crime can be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

ENDS

The ten year review report (2009-2018) can be downloaded here: PAW NI Raptor Persecution Report 2009 – 2018

The use of technology (nest cameras and satellite tags) in the Hawk Eyes project is very interesting, especially as it’s being funded by the Department of Justice’s Assets Recovery Community Scheme, where proceeds of crimes are distributed to help community projects. It would be great to see this approach repeated in England, Scotland and Wales.

Of most interest to us is that these tags are being deployed primarily to aid the detection of wildlife crime. Typically, up until now the main reason for deploying satellite tags has been as part of an ecological research project – the subsequent detection of wildlife crime hotspots (through the discovery of poisoned/shot/trapped sat tagged birds or the suspicious disappearance of tagged birds) has been a by-product of that research and not its primary aim. This is a very clear change of approach from the PAW NI and its also very pleasing to see that the police are key partners in it. Good stuff.

Will the use of satellite tag technology help to identify the criminals as well as the hotspots? Quite possibly. It doesn’t work in England, Scotland or Wales where there are large game shooting estates and where evidence can be quickly destroyed with relative ease (no witnesses around and thousands of acres in which to hide corpses/tags) and where multiple gamekeepers can hide in the crowd (a prosecution isn’t possible unless an individual suspect is identified) but the situation in Northern Ireland is quite different.

Raptor killing in Northern Ireland isn’t such an ‘organised crime’ as it is in the rest of the UK because there are very few large game shooting estates. It seems to be more localised and opportunistic in Northern Ireland, so the perpetrators aren’t so clued up on how to avoid detection. The deterrent effect of simply knowing that these birds might be tagged may also be significant in Northern Ireland because the raptor killers there won’t have wealthy employers prepared to fork out thousands of pounds for legal defence as they do on the game shooting estates in England and Scotland. The risk of getting caught and being afraid of the consequences might just do the trick in Northern Ireland.

Well done and good luck to the PAW NI team – a lot of people will be watching this project with interest.




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