Press release from RSPB:
REPORT REVEALS CONTINUED PERSECUTION OF BIRDS OF PREY IN UK
- RSPB’s Birdcrime report reveals a minimum of 81 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution in the UK during 2016, but many illegal killings are going undetected or unreported.
- There were no prosecutions for these persecution offences, the first time this has happened in 30 years.
- Illegal killing is not only robbing people of the chance to see birds of prey in the UK but has serious consequences for their populations.
- The RSPB is calling for police and other enforcing authorities to make full use of all existing powers to protect birds of prey as well as the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting to ensure shoots are operating legally and sustainably.
Without urgent action some of UK’s birds of prey face a bleak future after the latest Birdcrime report revealed a minimum of 81 confirmed incidents of illegal raptor persecution in 2016, without a single person prosecuted.
Birdcrime 2016 – the only report summarising offences against birds of prey in the UK – revealed 40 shooting, 22 poisoning, 15 trapping and four other incidents of illegal persecution against raptors. Among the victims were hen harriers, peregrine falcons, red kites and buzzards. However, evidence suggests these figures are just the tip of the iceberg with many illegal killings going undetected or unreported.
[Photo: this Marsh harrier was found shot next to a partridge release pen on a shooting estate in Yorkshire. Image via Jean Thorpe]
The report also revealed close to two-thirds (53) of the confirmed incidents took place in England, with particular concern for raptors in North Yorkshire. Over the last five years the county recorded the highest number of confirmed bird of prey persecution incidents in the UK, with 54 incidents since 2012 and 19 last year alone.
The problem wasn’t confined to England, with the report highlighting confirmed cases in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where there is growing concern over the repeated suspicious disappearance of satellite tagged birds of prey. This year, a study by Scottish Government examined the fate of 131 golden eagles fitted with satellite tags between 2004-16 concluding that ‘as many as 41 (one third) disappeared, presumably died, under suspicious circumstances connected with records of illegal persecution.’
Increasingly, people in the UK are being robbed of the chance to see these spectacular birds because of these illegal incidents, yet in 2016, there wasn’t a single prosecution arising from a confirmed incident, the first time this has happened in 30 years.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “Birds of prey bring our skies to life. There is nothing like seeing a diving peregrine or a skydancing hen harrier. The sights of these spectacular birds are something we should all be able to enjoy, unfortunately illegal activity is stopping this and preventing the birds from flourishing. There are laws in place to protect these birds but they are clearly not being put into action. We need governments across the UK to do more to tackle illegal killing to protect our raptors for future generations to enjoy.”
Previous research has shown that illegal killing of birds of prey is associated with land managed for intensive driven grouse shooting, leaving vast areas of our uplands without raptors. A Natural England study revealed ‘compelling evidence’ that persecution of hen harriers – associated with driven grouse moors – was the main factor limiting their recovery in England.
The RSPB believes the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting would help tackle the ongoing illegal persecution that occurs on these grouse moors. This would also help tackle the wider problems of intensive management of ‘big bag’ driven grouse shooting, like the draining of and burning on fragile peat bogs. A fair set of rules in the form of a licensing system could help ensure shoots are operating legally and sustainably and introduce the option of restricting or removing a licence in response to the most serious offences, for example where staff on an estate have been convicted of illegally killing birds of prey.
The RSPB welcomes a recent announcement by Scottish Government that will see an independent panel established to review options for regulation of grouse shooting and to look at the economic and environmental costs and benefits of the industry.
Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: “This latest Birdcrime report continues to highlight that in the UK we have a major issue with birds of prey being deliberately and illegally killed, despite having full legal protection. This type of crime has serious consequences for the populations of species, such as the hen harrier, and we must see a change in attitude and more effective law enforcement to protect these birds for years to come.”
Read the online Birdcrime 2016 report here
Birdcrime 2016 data appendices here
Well done to the RSPB Investigations Team for once again compiling and publishing these annual data, which help to dispel the oft-cited myth from the game-shooting industry that raptor persecution ‘is a thing of the past’. Have a look at this useful graph and draw your own conclusions – the data don’t lie, unlike the game-shooting industry:
Of course, it comes as no surprise that those within the bird shooting industry would want to mislead the public – as this pie chart reveals, gamekeepers are responsible for the vast majority of UK raptor persecution crimes:
The county of North Yorkshire once again comes top of the raptor-killing leader board, way ahead of every other county. Many of these crimes have taken place on driven grouse moors:
Tune in around this time next year, to read more of the same. Nothing has changed and nor will it change until the filthy and unregulated driven grouse shooting industry has been closed down. You can help hasten its demise by signing this e-petition calling for a ban: please join over 10,000 others and sign here.
BBC Breakfast news: Great interview with Guy Shorrock (RSPB Investigations). Available on iPlayer but only for 24 hrs (starts at 1:50) here
BBC news: here
New Scientist: here
Guest blog by Bob Elliot, Head of RSPB Investigations: here
Daily Telegraph: here (including a quote from Amanda Anderson, Moorland Association)
The Times: here (behind paywall)
The York Press: here
Statement from Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority: here
Yorkshire Post: here
UPDATE 1.30hrs: Reaction to RSPB’s 2016 Birdcrime report, compare & contrast (here)