The birds of prey victims of 11 incidents of wildlife crime recorded in the past two years is just the tip of the iceberg.
57 birds of prey were confirmed victims of reckless or intentional criminal activity in Northern Ireland during the last eight years.
The latest report detailing the illegal killing of Northern Ireland’s native birds of prey has been published by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW NI) and is available:
It reveals that there were five confirmed illegal poisoning or persecution incidents in 2015 and a further six in 2016, involving the killing of 12 protected birds of prey in Northern Ireland during this period. Killing six buzzards, five peregrines and one sparrowhawk.
The report lead author, Dr Eimear Rooney (Raptor Officer for NIRSG) said: “This latest persecution report helps us all to understand the scale and distribution of the problem. It is particularly shocking to see new areas appear on the hot-spot maps, showing the issue of raptor persecution to be widespread. It is heart-breaking to think of the deaths of these protected birds but it is particularly shocking to see the continued usage of highly toxic Carbofuran.
“The PAW NI group will continue to take action to tackle raptor persecution and it is encouraging to see all the partners proactively working together on this report.”
In 2015/2016 three of the incidents involved the use of the pesticide Carbofuran, which has been banned across the EU since 2001. This poison is illegal to use cross Europe due to its high toxicity to wildlife and humans. Further birds were killed using other banned pesticides, restricted-use rodenticides and the remainder were illegally shot.
Superintendent Brian Kee, PSNI service lead for rural and wildlife crime, added: “Wildlife crime, including the illegal killing/poisoning of birds of prey, is taken extremely seriously by Police. It isn’t acceptable for birds of prey or any other wildlife to be killed in this way.
“These actions are illegal and the use of toxic poisons is indiscriminate as they put children, pets and livestock at risk too. We would urge anyone who has information about any incident of poisoning to come forward by calling Police on the non-emergency number 101. Or information about crime can be passed to the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
There were 49 cases of suspected wildlife crime involving birds of prey reported to the PSNI in 2015 & 2016, some of the birds were shown to have died naturally (e.g. disease, starvation/ collision) and many of the birds were too decomposed for accurate testing.
“Twenty birds tested positive for the consumption of rat poisons, a reminder to landowners to use rodenticides in a responsible manner to minimise the likelihood of exposure to non-target wildlife and pets. Users must always read and adhere to the label instructions of the rodenticide, and they should collect and correctly dispose of any rodent carcasses daily.
The report examines the occurrence and trends in confirmed persecution incidents of these birds, which has allowed PAW to produce ‘hot-spot’ maps to identify areas where crimes against birds of prey are occurring. Of the 11 confirmed cases in 2015 & 2016, five occurred in County Antrim, two in Counties Down and Armagh and one in each of counties Londonderry and Tyrone.
The report shows that, since 2009, the most frequent casualties have been buzzards, peregrine falcons, and the recently re-introduced red kite. Red kites and buzzards are particularly susceptible to poisoned baits as they will scavenge on carrion routinely.
Eimear Rooney added: “Where members of the public come across a dead or injured bird of prey and there is no obvious innocent explanation for its injuries, such as contact with power lines or windows, and a crime is suspected then they should call the PSNI on 101.
“If the bird(s) are found close to a suspicious bait, keep people, pets and livestock away until the police arrive. This report only covers the carcasses that are recovered and it is likely the ‘tip of the iceberg’, as these incidents tend to occur in remote locations. Therefore, keep your eyes open in the countryside and remember timely reporting is important”.