Press release from RSPB (19 February 2019)
Ravens found poisoned on farmland
West Mercia Police undertook an investigation after ten dead ravens, a dead crow and parts of a dead lamb were found close together on farmland near Vron Woods, Beguildy on the Wales/Shropshire border.
The birds were reported to the RSPB and collected by Natural England in April 2018, who sent the birds to be tested. Government toxicology tests on five of the ravens, the crow and the lamb confirmed the presence of Diazinon. This is a veterinary product, used legally for sheep dip, but which is known to have been used illegally to poison wildlife. It is believed the lamb carcass was deliberately laced with Diazinon for this purpose.
[Poisoned raven, photo by Ed Blane, Natural England]
[Photo of the ten ravens and one crow bagged up for removal, by Ed Blane, Natural England]
Birds of prey and ravens are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. Police interviewed a local person under caution but, due to lack of evidence, the case could go no further.
Ravens are a recovering species which breed mainly in Wales, Scotland, and Western and Northern England.
Jenny Shelton from RSPB Investigations said: “Shropshire has a history of Diazinon abuse for the purpose of illegally targeting birds of prey and other protected species. We are grateful to Natural England and the police for investigating this matter, which poses a serious threat to wildlife and people. Ravens are incredibly intelligent creatures, able solve problems and form memories similar to our own. These once-scarce birds are gradually starting to recover after persistent persecution at the hands of humans, so it’s disturbing to hear of incidents like this still taking place.
“This area is also a stronghold for red kites – another bird making a comeback after disappearing entirely from England due to persecution. Poison baits pose a danger to these birds too.”
If you have any information relating to this incident, call West Mercia Police on 101.
The RSPB is urging people to be vigilant and report dead birds of prey or ravens this spring – a key time of year for illegal poisoning to take place. If you find a dead bird of prey or raven beside a carcass that could be a poison bait, contact the government hotline on 0800 321600. Alternatively contact the police on 101 or RSPB investigations on 01767 680551.
Note: These investigations take time, as do the toxicology tests, and we realise there has been some delay in publicising this. But we feel this is an important story to tell.