Local politician seeks ‘full investigation’ in to mass poisoning of buzzards

Further to yesterday’s blog about the reported illegal poisoning of 23 buzzards in County Cork and the apparent subsequent silence of the investigating authorities (see here), today there’s some encouraging news.

Local politician Christopher O’Sullivan TD (Teachta Dala, the equivalent of an MP) in whose constituency the poisoned buzzards were found, has just tweeted the following:

According to our sources, this is a very significant move. As discussed in yesterday’s blog, there have long been concerns about the lack of enforcement measures against raptor persecution in some parts of Ireland and particularly in the south where this latest crime was recorded.

Yesterday’s statement from BirdWatch Ireland highlighted these concerns and they’ve been re-emphasised in a statement from the Golden Eagle Trust (GET), the wildlife charity behind the reintroduction of golden eagles, white-tailed eagles and other important conservation projects across the Irish Republic. Here’s what GET had to say about this on Friday:

An attack on nature protection in Cork

Carbofuran is a banned root crop pesticide that continues to be used to deliberately kill birds of prey across Ireland. Some months ago, a landowner discovered dead Buzzards on his property, near Timoleague, County Cork and contacted the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). 23 dead Common Buzzards were found during subsequent searches of the adjacent land. Toxicology tests, carried out by the State Laboratory, showed that the Buzzards had consumed Carbofuran, we believe. The landowner was completely unaware that a third party was leaving out poison nearby. This is the biggest illegal act against birds of prey in Ireland, over the last two decades.

The continued wilful persecution of birds of prey is decreasing the population of Peregrines, Hen Harriers, Buzzards and the reintroduced native populations of Eagles and Kites, in some parts of Ireland. It can be very difficult to find the evidence that could link an individual with an act of poisoning and thereby present sufficient evidence before a judge in order to secure a successful prosecution.

Therefore, the Golden Eagle Trust is calling on Government Departments to draft and enact a defined piece of legislation which makes it illegal for anybody to be in possession of Carbofuran and several other lethal substances, whose former agricultural uses have been banned and phased out. We are also calling on the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to revisit their discussion on whether it would be helpful to establish a small (one or two person) Wildlife Crime Unit within NPWS, in order to provide specialized advice and expertise in responding to reported wildlife crime incidents and presenting a strong legal case to the State Solicitors and to be put before the Courts; whenever the evidence allows a case to be initiated.

It is difficult to assess the effectiveness and enforcement of National and European wildlife legislation in Ireland and the degree of deterrent it might offer, arising from successful Irish wildlife court cases; as court cases or successful wildlife crime prosecution figures are not readily available. However, a crude review of available internet media sources, might suggest that there has not been any successful wildlife crime court case, over the last 4 or 5 years, in Counties Cork or Kerry, for example. The general public have a very important role in reporting dead birds of prey to NPWS and they in turn, need appropriate laws, staff resources and appropriate management facilitation in implementing the law, where the evidence allows it, in some of these ongoing poisoning incidents.

Whilst there may be several legitimate administrative reasons for the lack of clarity surrounding Ireland’s biggest raptor persecution case, arising from the current Coronavirus crisis; there is also a competing responsibility to keep communities informed of nearby risks related to illegal poisoning activity. The wider context reveals an unfortunate pattern of Peregrines being killed at the same nests annually and Common Buzzards and Red Kites being poisoned, in localized areas, on a regular basis. It can be extremely difficult to identify the perpetrators of these crimes against nature and therefore the legislation needs to keep abreast of the collated RAPTOR Protocol dataset and counter, the primary threats that the accruing results suggest.

[The corpses of several buzzards found poisoned by Carbofuran in Co Cork in 2018. See here for details. Photo by NPWS]

In July 2010, the Grant Thornton, ‘Organisational Review of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), suggested in Section 4.5.1 (Page 55) that:

Enforcement and prosecution activity is represented as being low with only some 30 cases per annum being prosecuted. Progress in this area seems to vary depending on Division.”

The Golden Eagle Trust wonder if the level of nature protection enforcement activity might have fallen even further since 2010? We are concerned that a lack of Ministerial, Departmental or Party-Political support, for some aspects of the Law, may have weakened NPWS managerial resolve, in some areas, over the last decade. In a small number of places, recreational family groups, dog walkers and landowners may need to be especially vigilant as regards the possibility that poisoned meat baits have been left out in the open. This incident revives the independent expert opinion and concern (as set out in the Grant Thornton Organisational Review) whether some NPWS managers need more support and resources in progressing illegal wildlife activity cases? The unpalatable alternative, is that the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht transparently seek to repeal defined aspects of Irish or European Wildlife Legislation, which they may no longer endorse.

Regardless of the context; we are shocked by the number of dead Buzzards found in Cork and the 23 associated positive toxicology results – it is a wake-up call to us all.


Full credit to Christopher O’Sullivan TD – let’s hope his calls for an investigation lead to significant change, with improvements in investigation and enforcement responses. Judging by the reaction to the news that 23 buzzards were poisoned, he’ll have a great deal of public support.

8 thoughts on “Local politician seeks ‘full investigation’ in to mass poisoning of buzzards”

  1. I may have missed something in the past – but where does the carbofuran come from if it’s been illegal for years? Is there still a vast unused stock floating around Britian and Ireland?

    1. There’s usually a notice period between a substance being announced as being withdrawn and the effective date. The word is that, if they hear that something which is very efficient for illegal purposes is going off the market, they will buy in stocks so that they’re well prepared and supplied for years ahead. Bet it fetches a good price on the black-market too.

  2. ‘Whilst there may be several legitimate administrative reasons for the lack of clarity surrounding Ireland’s biggest raptor persecution case, arising from the current Coronavirus crisis;’
    23 Buzzards found poisoned in December and GET are giving them a get out clause of Coronavirus??
    Is it me?

    1. The reference to the Coronavirus was in relation to some delays in official paperwork. We are simply unaware if some Laboratory Technicians have been seconded into National Virus Testing efforts and most non essential communal places of work have been in lockdown.

      It would be easy to slam everyone involved – but we believe the problems are more nuanced. The GET’s aim is to build a more robust response to Wildlife Crime in Ireland, not to pull all the underlying structures down.

      Sorry, if our post was confusing, but we are operating without clarity ourselves. That is one of the primary faults in our current national Wildlife Law enforcement efforts.

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