Once again, a Spanish court has imposed a significant penalty on an individual found guilty of deliberately poisoning birds of prey, according to an article on the Vulture Conservation Foundation website.
The article (here) says that in spring 2019 three dead griffon vultures were found on a sheep farm in the province of Cáceres. An investigation led to the discovery of dead sheep that had been sprayed with poisonous insecticide which the judge decided had been deliberately placed to poison the vultures.
[One of the poisoned griffon vultures. Photo by Jovan Andevski]
Reporting this week, the Vulture Conservation Foundation states that the court sentenced the sheep farmer to 18 months in prison and ordered him to pay a daily fine of €3 for 21 months (totalling approximately €1,900) and a further fine of €18,000 to be paid to the General Directorate of Rural Environment of the Junta de Extremadura to compensate for each poisoned vulture (€6,000 per vulture).
An almost €20,000 fine and an 18-month custodial sentence is a significant penalty for raptor poisoning, and far, far more significant than anything we’ve ever seen in the UK, although with increased penalties now available in Scotland for this type of offence there is at least some potential for a strong response from the Scottish courts, as we’ve seen time and time again from the Spanish courts (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here and here) including massive fines, custodial sentences and extended hunting disqualifications.
Although the availability of strong penalties will be no deterrent if the chance of catching an offender is still marginal, which I’m afraid it is in the UK, and the raptor killers know this only too well. Spain has worked to overcome these difficulties by the use of specialist wildlife crime officers with the freedom to undertake unannounced spot checks on private land, with specialist search dogs, at any given time.
Can you imagine this happening on a grouse moor, with strong links to the royal family, inside the Cairngorms National Park? No, me neither, and this is what happens as a result.