Illegal poisoning down in Scotland: year-on-year improvement

The number of birds reported as poisoned in Scotland has declined once again, as an annual report published by the RSPB shows. ‘The Illegal Killing of Birds of Prey in Scotland in 2012’ report showed that there were three birds of prey killed by poison in 2012; one golden eagle and two buzzards, down from 14 confirmed poisoned birds of prey in 2011. That represents a reduction of 78 per cent, while incidences of buzzard poisoning have reduced 90 per cent since 2009, from 21 confirmed cases to two.

However, the report detailed that ‘A total of 13 incidents, either killing or targeting birds of prey, were confirmed during the year’, which included birds killed by shooting or being caught in illegal spring traps, and speculates that there were a further 27 ‘probable’ incidences of attempted persecution.

In a press release about the report, RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden said, “We applaud the continued focus on tackling raptor persecution by the Scottish Government, but much remains to be done. We also welcome the decline in illegal poisoning; however if those who wish harm to our country’s birds of prey simply turn to other forms of persecution, such as shooting or trapping, then there is little to celebrate.”

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has welcomed the news of the decline in the number of birds of prey poisoned, and stated, “All PAW partners, including ourselves, are fully behind the printing of the official statistics annually, based on actual legal cases, and see no reason why this should change.

“While we have been encouraged by the progress made, with the official statistics stating a record of only three confirmed cases of illegal poisoning of birds of prey in 2012, reports such as this do little other than damage to on-going partnership efforts designed to reduce crimes against birds of prey.

“As stated consistently, the SGA continues to advocate legal means to solving countryside conflicts. Because of this, the clarity and impartiality provided by law is important to us.”

Scottish Land and Estates also responded to the report, with chief executive Douglas McAdam stating the ‘substantial progress being made in tackling wildlife crime reflects the efforts of organisations such as the Scottish Government police, landowners, gamekeepers, land managers and charities such as RSPB working together through the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime.’

He went on to say, “Our members abhor wildlife crime and condemn it out of hand. We are fully committed to its eradication. However, all involved should recognise there has been substantial progress made and this has been clear from the official statistics produced from Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government, which show three poisoning incidents and 10 from other forms of illegal killing. The RSPB figures confirm what is already known. We do not believe that because poisoning incidents are now very low indeed that it can be assumed other forms of killing have taken their place. There have been significant reductions in both categories.

“It is right the RSPB report highlights the unacceptability of wildlife crime but we believe it would be more productive if the charity focused more on promoting what can be achieved in tackling the issue rather than trying to point fingers. The implication that this is always the fault of shooting interests is simply not borne out by the evidence.

“There is absolutely no cause for complacency and the most important thing is that all those involved in land management continue to work together to eradicate wildlife crime.”

 

For the full report, visit www.rspb.org.uk/Images/illegal_killing_of_BoPs_in_scotland_tcm9-358482.pdf  

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