The RSPB have just published their BIRDCRIME 2011 report containing the latest information of the number of crimes directed against wild birds. The report makes very grim reading indeed and underlines very well the fact that more needs to be done to bring an end to this unacceptable criminal activity.
It comes as no surprise that once again the UK’s iconic birds of prey continued to bear the brunt of criminal activity. The detailed findings catalogues 202 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey, with the confirmed shooting of 30 individual birds last year including eight buzzards, four peregrine falcons and two short-eared owls.
There were one hundred reports of poisoning incidents involving the confirmed poisoning of at least 70 individual birds or animals. Victims of poisoning included a golden eagle, 17 red kites, 17 buzzards and 7 peregrines. The RSPB believes these figures are just the tip of an iceberg with many victims of illegal persecution never found. The report can be downloaded here.
What Raptor Politics finds curious is why the 2011 report did not mention anything at all about the unprecedented number of peregrine territories which failed last year in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland. Nor does the report highlight the disappearance of several pairs of breeding peregrines from territories which had been occupied continually for many years in this upland region.
Interesting points the report missed out:
Two days after all four of these Bowland peregrine chicks had been ringed at 3-weeks old in the presence of estate gamekeepers, the two larger female chicks were reported missing to the RSPB. These losses for some reason were then not recorded in the Bird Crime report
Only two peregrine territories out of the seven occupied at the beginning of the season located on the United Utilities estate in 2011 produced young. Throughout the rest of Bowland peregrine failure rates were just as poor or worst.
Last year’s wet and cold weather would have played a role in the failure of a percentage of these territories, but this would not account for the number of pairs of resident falcons which disappeared or the failure of so many nests where prey availability was not an issue.
Although persecution can not be established conclusively, many of these losses were suspicious and should have been recorded but were not.
The RSPB report ends by saying bird of prey persecution is one of the UK Government’s wildlife crime priorities, and it has committed to avoid any human-induced extinctions of species in England by 2020. The hen harrier faces extinction as a breeding bird in England with only one nesting attempt this year. Illegal persecution, associated with land managed for driven grouse shooting, has been identified a key factor in the hen harrier’s decline.
Someone should bring Richard Benyon up to speed with this important RSPB document, because it is now clear the Minister in charge of Defra who claims England’s wildlife laws are up to the job, either does’t know what is going on, or he simply doesn’t care.
Introduction of the offence of vicarious liability for raptor persecution in England