Spain continues to impose strong penalties for raptor poisoning

Once again the Spanish authorities are leading the way with their zero tolerance approach to illegal raptor persecution by imposing another meaningful penalty on an individual who was found guilty of poisoning four vultures (one Cinereous and three griffon) with a banned pesticide in 2012.

[A poisoned griffon vulture, photo by Hristo Peshev]

According to this article (roughly translated from Spanish via Google but clear enough to understand the main points), the unnamed criminal was given a six month custodial sentence AND a fine of 36,000 Euros AND was disqualified from hunting for a period of two years.

It’s not clear why it took so long for the case to come to court but previous cases have shown the Spanish authorities go to great lengths to find supportive evidence in these poisoning cases (e.g. seeking court warrants to collect blood samples from 150 sheep to link to a poisoned bait! – see here) and the routine use of sniffer dogs to detect traces of poisoned baits or poisoned victims. These extended investigations are not currently possible in the UK because there is a time bar on when proceedings must begin after a wildlife crime has been committed (three years in Scotland, two years in England & Wales).

This isn’t the first time that the Spanish authorities have come down hard on raptor poisoners. We’ve blogged about three previous cases (here here and here) where custodial sentences, massive fines and an extended disqualification from hunting have all been part of the sentencing package. Spain is putting the UK to shame.

However, things may soon be changing in Scotland. With the proposed new penalties for wildlife crime (including a substantial increase for many raptor persecution offences) currently going through the Parliamentary process it hopefully won’t be long before the Scottish courts will have the ability, and desire, to impose lengthy custodial sentences and massive fines on those found guilty of killing raptors.

It would be helpful if, like in Spain, there was also the option to disqualify the criminal (and his/her employing estate, if appropriate) from ‘hunting’ for a period of time commensurate with the offence(s). Of course, for this to happen we need to see the Scottish Government finally commit to introducing a licensing scheme for game bird shooting, starting with driven grouse shooting where much of the criminality is embedded.

We await the Government’s response to the Werritty Review with great interest.

5 thoughts on “Spain continues to impose strong penalties for raptor poisoning”

  1. I wonder if anyone has looked at satellite tags being somehow engrained with some kind of odour so they could be tracked with tracker dogs. I presume it has been looked at and found to be infeasible.
    The vulture website has articles on sniffer dogs tracking poisoned vultures.
    A fantastic website.

  2. It’s nice to see the Spanish treat their birds better than their bulls. Let’s hope that in not to short a time the bulls receive equal rotection

    1. I was just thinking the same thing re the bulls…strange how the same culture can have 2 such opposing, apparent, ‘rules’. It wasnt long ago that a tradition’ in some rural Spanish village/villages, was throwing donkeys off a tall tower..presumably outlawed now(?)

  3. Absolutely agree that we want to have similar intense investigations, rigorous prosecutions and meaningful punishments.
    At the moment the ruling class are given too much scope to protect their own.
    We should also enforce vicarious liability prosecutions, I think the gamekeepers are probably pressured to break the law a lot of the time. Even if some ‘bad apples’ don’t need much encouragement.

  4. “I wonder if anyone has looked at satellite tags being somehow engrained with some kind of odour so they could be tracked with tracker dogs. I presume it has been looked at and found to be infeasible.”

    I cannot see that achieving anything useful at all.

    The point of a satellite tag is that it transmits its position regularly. When carcasses are removed and destroyed by gamekeepers hiding their crimes, the satellite tags are first disabled, and then destroyed (by fire, if necessary).

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