Shotguns & dead bird of prey seized during multi-agency raid in Wales

Article from The Leader (8th October 2021)

MORE than a dozen shotguns and a dead bird of prey have been seized following an investigation into the illegal killing of raptors in the Ceiriog Valley.

The operation that took place this week was carried out by North Wales Police’s Rural Crime Team, in partnership with the RSPB Investigations Team, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the Welsh Government, targeting those suspected of unlawfully poisoning birds of prey.

It came following an investigation launched in July into the poisoning of a red kite, found dead in the Ceiriog Valley on February 27 [Ed: see here].

Toxicology tests carried out on the bird by the Welsh Government earlier this year revealed it tested positive for Bendiocarb – a highly toxic pesticide.

Officers believe the incident was a deliberate act.

[Photo from North Wales Police Rural Crime Team]

Following this week’s searches, which included the recovery of 15 shotguns, the dead bird of prey was sent off for toxicology tests, while dangerous chemicals also discovered at one property are being dealt with.

Sergeant Dewi Evans of the Rural Crime Team said:

It’s time to stamp out persecution against our birds of prey. We are glad to have worked with Welsh Government, National Wildlife Crime Unit and RSPB Investigations on our operation targeting those suspected of criminally harming our wildlife. We look forward to working with our partners again in future.

RSPB Investigations officer Niall Owen said: “This was a well organised multi-agency operation and a positive step in the right direction for investigating raptor persecution in Wales.

“We, as a team, are committed to working alongside the police to safeguard the future for birds of prey and uncover these barbaric crimes against our birds.

“Laying poison baits in the countryside to target birds of prey is not only illegal but represents a huge danger to any person or animal unlucky enough to come across it.

“We would like the thank North Wales Police for their commitments to follow up these incidents.”


12 thoughts on “Shotguns & dead bird of prey seized during multi-agency raid in Wales”

  1. Excellent work, let’s hope the courts back up the hard work with an actual centence, not suspended, and not a slap on the wrist like normal.
    Too many of our birds of prey are being killed, not just in Wales, but Yorkshire, Scotland, it needs to stop.
    Great job..
    If there was anything I could do to help I would without hesitation..

    1. There is, James. You can help by drawing attention to these crimes (and to the damaging effects of intensive shooting “management”) at every opportunity. Either on “social” media, or by simply providing the appropriate links to friends and family.
      The quicker public awareness increases, the quicker we’ll see an end to these worthless activities.

  2. Perhaps the Welsh Government are showing the commitment that the UK and Scottish Government’s lack. Heartening to see.

  3. As ever it is good to see these joint operations continuing, obviously based on good intelligence. One hopes there is enough evidence for individuals involved to be charged and appear in court.

  4. Brilliant news! Well done to all involved.
    Yet, despite all your hard work BOP persecution persists … and still ‘Joe Public’ doesn’t really understand or acknowledge the scale of the problem we still have in the UK.
    High profile cases like this one, which receive wide media coverage, help to raise awareness … and this should put the perpetrators of such crimes under constant fear of being observed, reported, arrested and prosecuted!
    Come on rural communities! Help the Investigations Teams out and grass up those buggers responsible for BOP & Wildlife crimes! One day, hey?

  5. On 9 October C Johnson wrote (inter alia):-

    “and still ‘Joe Public’ doesn’t really understand or acknowledge the scale of the problem we still have in the UK.”

    That is absolutely the case and I feel that if we could raise the public profile of this crime it would pay dividends in in terms of having the perpetrators widely viewed as pariahs.

    Many will recall the sickening picture of a seal cub being clubbed to death:-

    There is similar material available for use against wildlife criminals and the government neds who facilitate their activities. Heaps of bloody mountain hares, poisoned birds, trapped animals and so on.

    Whilst the generality of the public does not grasp what is taking place they most will be revolted and outraged if revealing pictures appeared on road side billboards and TV screens etc.

    1. Spot on. A couple of Saturdays ago a friend and I were out on our local High Street with a rather basic display comprised of images of shot, trapped and poisoned birds of prey, but also an adder incinerated by muirburn, hedgehogs, rabbits, ring ouzel killed in tunnel traps, foxes in stink pits etc. All printed out and laminated with some explanatory text. Unfortunately we couldn’t get our hands on any pics of ‘culled’ mountain hares in time. We also had some info on why some trees and beavers on grouse moors would be great for reducing flood and fire risk – Mr Carbo very kindly did a cartoon for us of a beaver as a fireman. We didn’t have many resources, not even a table so lacked physical ‘presence’, but the interactions we did have with the public were very good as we hadn’t pulled any punches. I know for a fact the RSPB have a policy of NOT showing graphic images of raptor persecution on their stalls except in specific situations and I think that’s a big mistake.

      There’s scope for developing a highly sarcastic ‘Real Guide to the Wildlife of Grouse Moors’ using the type of images we had – everything shot, poisoned, burnt, crushed or snared. That could be made available on line and also as a material resource for people who wanted to run a stall in their local town centre or at an event. I wish more people doing falconry displays were prepared to highlight raptor persecution. I know one who takes professionally made boards on Hen Harrier persecution with him to public events (when flying his birds he was once approached by a gamekeeper who asked him if he’d be interested in four goshawk chicks the nest was going to be ‘shot out anyway’), but he’s very much the exception. I think though this has to be accompanied with the point grouse shooting is costing rural jobs rather than creating them. Even in an organisation like Friends of the Earth Scotland far too many people who are disgusted by so many aspects of grouse shooting in particular baulk at the idea of closing it down because they actually believe it will kill rural communities when in fact the opposite is far more likely.

  6. Communities know the vermin involved in such crimes – thankfully more of them appear to be contacting the relevant people about their concerns

  7. Whilst this is very much a good news story.
    The reported raptor persecution incidents are probably only the tip of the iceberg, and until we properly tackle the root causes, the criminals will not go away and the crimes will keep on getting committed.
    At the moment the incentives to commit wildlife crimes do not outweigh the probability of getting caught and punished.
    Even when someone is prosecuted, it is usually someone right at the bottom of the system which perpetuates these crimes who is brought to justice, and those at the top remain in place to ensure the system keeps functioning.
    The issue can be likened to the illegal drugs trade. It is usually the street dealer who is caught and prosecuted. Those at the top of a drugs syndicate manage to distance themselves from day to day street dealing, are almost untouchable, and are the ones reaping the biggest rewards.
    When a street dealer is removed by the police, another simply steps in to fill the place, and the illegal drugs trade just keeps on functioning as though nothing ever happened.

    I am also very mindful, that the more successful the various agencies are with the raids, and the more these are publicised, the more likely this is to make those who commit these crimes even more secretive about their activities, which could make future detections even more difficult.

    Sorry, if this sounds a bit of a dampener.

    The Routine Activity Theory (Cohen &Felson 1979) suggests that a person may choose to offend if they have:
    • the motivation to attack a target
    • the right kind of target to attack
    • a potential target without adequate protection.

    If this is applied to raptor persecution.
    The presence of birds of prey over shooting estates is often seen as detrimental to the shooting activities which an estate might wish to conduct, or in other settings detrimental to other activities, where those conducting those activities believe raptors have a negative impact on those activities – which potentially makes raptors the right kind of target to attack.
    By their very nature, such as the isolated locations where birds of prey live, away from potential witnesses, the fact they can’t report to the police what is happening to them, etc makes raptors a potential target without adequate protection.
    There may well be various motivating factors, but it is believed in some quarters that raptors have a negative effective on game bird numbers, which in turn can impact on the number of shoot days an estate can conduct; or the fact that raptors are believed responsible for attacking livestock etc, etc.- all these potentially create a motivation for some individuals to go out and commit crime.

    Of course there will be those who believe that raptors have a negative impact on their activities, but are morally and ethically inclined to obey the law, and won’t engage in persecution.

    Anyone who has seen the news today, might have read the report that Britain is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, (bottom 10% globally and last amongst G7 countries) and has an average of about half its biodiversity left, far below the global average of 75%. The report today blames this on industrialisation linked to the urban expansion and industrialisation of agriculture.

    This makes the protection of what little wild places we have even more important. When you consider that even the upland moors are intensively managed for grouse shooting, with a mono culture of heather, and the removal of species which interfere with the creation of an artificial high grouse population, then no wonder there is such a lack of proper biodiversity.

    Those who manage the countryside can not claim that what they have been doing is working, as if this was the case, Britain would not be in the position it is when it comes to nature. It also suggests that all the noise coming from the game shooting industry about their vital role in helping conservation simply doesn’t hold water. They appear not to have a created a rich biodiverse habitat in the uplands, but have reduced these wild places to nothing but game farms, where there is much trumpet blowing about small populations of Curlews and the like, breeding on the margins! ( I don’t doubt that without the predator control being carried out these populations of ground nesting birds would be even more depleted, but how much more could there be if the land was managed for all wildlife and not specifically for game birds?)

    This lack of biodiversity also makes tackling wildlife crime, and raptor persecution even more important, as these birds are a vital part of a properly functioning ecological system. A few well publicised raids and the investigation of one or two individuals is a bit like building sandcastles on the beach…the tide comes in….washes away the castles…and there is no real change to the beach.

    So whilst reading a news story like this is something positive, I am not convinced it will stop raptor persecution, or lead to the end of wildlife crime as it doesn’t remove the root causes of the persecution which is taking place. Neither will it help lift Britain out of its pitiful position at the bottom of biodiversity tables.

    Those in government, who have the power to actually tackle the root causes of these issues, appear to simply not want to do this in a proper and effective way!!
    (Hopefully, I am wrong and the Scottish government really deliver on their pledge to stop the persecution of birds of prey in Scotland- but this pledge needs to extend across all of Britain. The government in Westminster appears to be more about words than action when it comes to wildlife and the environment! )

    The big question for me, is will the proposed changes to farm subsidies and rural payments create any great change in how the countryside is managed? Would paying landowners to manage the moors for wildlife and biodiversity, rather than estates trying to pay for land management through revenue generated from shooting have a more beneficial and lasting impact? Such a change might remove the motivation to commit wildlife crime, and could have a far more positive impact on reducing raptor persecution than a handful of high publicity police raids? (but that’s a discussion for another day!!!)

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