A new, multi-agency initiative has been launched in Northern Ireland aimed at targeting those who continue to kill birds of prey.
Operation Raptor was launched at the weekend and will run indefinitely across the country. The idea is to identify raptor persecution ‘hot spots’ and widely distribute a campaign poster throughout those areas to not only encourage the public to report suspicious incidents but also to warn offenders that their crimes will be prosecuted.
Operation Raptor is a partnership initiative between the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and members of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAWNI) Raptor Subgroup, which includes the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, RSPB, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland, Agri-food and Biosciences Institute and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
This new campaign is a direct result of the report that the PAWNI Raptor Subgroup published last November (see here) which documented crimes against raptors in Northern Ireland between 2009-2013. The data revealed several persecution hot spots and it is these that will be targeted first. As more hot spots are identified, so the focus of attention will follow.
This campaign is a good example of real proactive partnership working and all credit to those involved.
Can we expect to see something similar being rolled out in raptor persecution hot spots across England and Scotland? It’s highly unlikely – membership of the English & Scottish PAW Raptor Groups is dominated by organisations from the game-shooting industry, some of whose members are repeatedly at the centre of raptor persecution investigations. Although interestingly, in the Operation Raptor press release there’s the following quote from Chief Inspector Martin Simms, head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit:
“The NWCU welcomes the Operation Raptor initiative for Northern Ireland. Focused work to tackle these horrible crimes in hot-spot areas seems to be a logical step forward, as exemplified in Operation Raptor. This reflects the approach in the rest of the United Kingdom where “hot-spot Counties” have been identified so action can be targeted for a more effective use of resources. Such impactive posters as Operation Raptor will hopefully make people understand the effect of these crimes and the suffering that is caused to such beautiful animals. I hope it will encourage people to report such wildlife crime”.
Yes Martin, raptor persecution hot spots have long been identified in England and Scotland through the publication of the annual poisoning/persecution maps (e.g. see here and here), many of which just happen to be in areas where the land-use is dominated by driven grouse shooting. The question is, what tangible action has been undertaken within those hot spot areas to tackle these crimes?