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31/03/15 09:35

Bird of prey crime maps

Latest crime figures.

The number of recorded bird of prey crimes in Scotland has decreased from 23 in 2013 to 19 in 2014, according to the latest bird of prey crime maps published today.

Species targeted included the red kite, buzzard, peregrine falcon, goshawk, golden eagle, hen harrier and tawny owl.

The figures published by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland show six reported bird of prey poisoning incidents in Scotland in 2014, the same number as in 2013. Two of these cases are not included on the maps as they remain under live police investigation and no further details have been released.

The maps show that other methods of persecution in 2014 included shooting, trapping and disturbance. This is a clear reflection that birds of prey are continuing to be persecuted in the Scottish countryside, whether by deliberate or accidental means.

Although the well- publicised case in Ross-shire resulted in an increase in the number of individual birds confirmed poisoned, the figures show an overall reduction from 2010 where the 5 year figures were at their highest level of 28 birds poisoned over 22 separate incidents.

Minister for Environment and Climate Change, and Chair of PAW Scotland, Aileen McLeod said:

“It is good to see that there has been a reduction in the overall number of crimes in 2014 compared to 2013. However, there is no room for complacency, 2014 saw one of the worst ever poisoning cases with the discovery of 12 dead red kites and 4 buzzards in Ross-shire, which is why the Scottish Government is continuing to take action to tackle raptor persecution.

“I recently launched a scheme to get rid of illegal pesticides which could be used to poison wildlife. The scheme allows those who know, or suspect they are in possession of certain pesticides which are illegal, to dispose of them safely and confidentially. I have also put in place arrangements to restrict the use of general licences where there is evidence of wildlife crime.

“In the last few months, we have seen the first ever custodial sentence for the killing of birds of prey and the first conviction of a land owner under the vicarious liability provisions, for crimes committed in 2012. This sends out a clear message to those who continue to pursue these illegal and cruel practices against Scotland’s birds of prey that this will not be tolerated.”

Tim Baynes, Moorland Group Director for Scottish Land and Estates said:

“Scottish Land & Estates is delighted that 2014 has seen a fall in bird of prey crimes. The land management community can never take its eye off this issue, but we hope that there will be recognition of the efforts that have been made to ensure a continuing downward trend in incidents related to land management.

“We strongly support the scheme recently launched by the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform to get rid of illegal pesticides which will help to minimise the risk of any more incidents such as the one in Ross-shire in 2014, where farmers and landowners have offered rewards for information. Scottish Land & Estates will continue to work with other PAWS partners to play its part in ensuring that all types of bird of prey crimes will become a thing of the past.”

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland's Head of Investigations said:

"While we acknowledge that numbers of detected poisoning incidents continue to be at relatively low levels, this is only part of the story. While occasionally there are high-profile incidents such as that on the Black Isle, there continues to be a campaign of illegal killing against our protected birds of prey in some areas, as evidenced by the recent film released by Police Scotland showing the systematic targeting of a goshawk nest, and the absence of successfully breeding hen harriers, peregrines and golden eagles in many areas of our uplands.”

Notes to editors

Maps and further information
Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA)
RSPB Scotland
Scottish Land & Estates

The maps and further information can be accessed online at: www.PAW.Scotland.gov.uk

PAW Scotland is the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime in Scotland. PAW Scotland membership encompasses a wide range of bodies with an interest in tackling wildlife crime including conservation, land management, shooting and law enforcement organisations.

Led by the Scottish Government, RSPB Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates, the maps were compiled using data held by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Police Scotland. The final poisoning results display the number and frequency of confirmed bird of prey poisoning incidents categorised by SASA as 'Deliberate Abuse' over the past five years. The data on wider persecution methods has been confirmed (via SRUC) and Police Scotland as recorded crimes. The maps have been compiled with the support of the PAW Scotland Raptor Group.

SASA is an Edinburgh-based scientific division of the Scottish Government Agriculture, Food and Rural Communities Directorate. SASA Pesticide and Wildlife Branch provides a variety of analytical chemistry services and expert advice in support of the Scottish Government's participation in UK and EU annual surveillance programs that monitor the impact of pesticide use on food & drink, animals and honeybees. The unit also provides essential support to law enforcement agencies and non-government organisations investigating suspected (illegal) animal poisoning activities.

Using latest scientific technology, bird specimens, suspected baits, suspicious chemicals and poisoning paraphernalia are analysed to identify the type of poison, if any, used. The science behind the bird of prey poisoning maps helps to highlight the scale of the problem of deliberate and illegal attempts to poison wildlife and is a significant tool in the fight against wildlife crime.

These PAWS Maps were developed through a joint initiative between the then Minister for Environment Michael Russell, Scottish Land & Estates and RSPB with the express aim of producing a set of robust and accurate statistics on this problem that all partners could then work with to try and tackle.

The poisoning maps show only incidents involving illegal poisoning of birds of prey. Other animal or bird species are not included, nor are any other crimes. The species of birds confirmed as poisoned in 2014 include:

Red Kite (13)
Buzzard (5)
Peregrine Falcon (1)

Details of two of the six 2014 poisoning incidents, including the species involved, cannot be released at this stage due to ongoing police investigations.

The additional maps showing wider methods of persecution have been compiled as reported crimes demonstrated that other methods were in play and needed to be taken into account when talking about raptor crime. The number of recorded crimes in 2014, broken down by the species affected, were:

Buzzard 5
Peregrine Falcon 3
Red Kite 2
Goshawk 2
Red Kite & Buzzard 1
Golden Eagle 1
Hen Harrier 1
Tawny Owl 1
Unknown 1
Details not yet released 2
Total 19

Please note that the figures amount to 19 recorded crimes in total for 2014, but due to 2 ongoing police investigations there are only 17 dots on the map. These dots will be rectified when the maps are revised at a later date.

The 2013 maps showed 21 incidents, however a further 2 incidents were not able to be plotted which was explained in the background data to the maps: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Environment/Wildlife-Habitats/paw-scotland/types-of-crime/crimes-against-birds/Poisoninghotspotmaps/2009-2013

The decrease in numbers for 2014 is therefore based on 23 and not 21 incidents in 2013.

The size of ‘spots’ on the map indicates the number of incidents in that area. The larger the spot the greater the number of confirmed incidents.

Exact locations of incidents are not shown, in recognition of the fact that birds may travel some distance after either exposure to poison or perhaps having been shot. The map therefore applies an obscurity factor to avoid any inference being drawn for the exact point of discovery of the bird, but still allows an overview of the worst affected areas.

The poisoning incidents refer only to confirmed poisoning cases categorised by SASA as 'Deliberate Abuse' and not any other category of confirmed poisonings.

The arrangements for dealing with wildlife crime were the subject of a major review in 2008, by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Inspectorate of Prosecution. The Scottish Government is implementing the recommendations that relate to PAW. These involve a restructuring of the organisation to create a broader base, and a revitalisation of effort with work being taken forward through focused sub-groups. The mapping project is a result of the partnership working.

Vicarious Liability was introduced following a full debate on wildlife crime in the Scottish Parliament during the passage of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill in 2011. It is a ground-breaking new provision to deal with landowners and managers who turn a blind eye to employees committing offences against wild birds on their land. Vicarious liability came into force on 1 January 2012. It does not have retrospective effect, and so applies only to offences committed after that date. The first vicarious liability conviction in Scotland was achieved in December 2014.

January 2015 saw the first jail sentence for crimes against birds of prey, when an Aberdeenshire gamekeeper was sentenced to four months in prison for killing a goshawk and other offences.