The number of bird of prey poisoning incidents in Scotland has decreased significantly, according to the latest ‘hotspot map’ for 2012.
The maps published today by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, show the number and general location of confirmed illegal poisonings in 2012, and cumulative figures for 2008 to 2012. A total of three poisoning incidents were recorded in 2012 resulting in the deaths of three birds of prey: two buzzards and a golden eagle. This compares to 10 incidents and 16 birds of prey poisoned in 2011 – a drop in incident numbers of 70 per cent.
Environment Minister and chair of PAW Scotland Paul Wheelhouse said:
“I very much welcome the significant reduction in the number of birds of prey poisoned which I hope signals the real change in attitude that is required to end this outdated and cruel practice.
“2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland, and our birds of prey are both a vital part of the natural environment and a stunning spectacle which attract visitors to our countryside from home and abroad. It is our duty to protect them and I believe that new measures brought in by the Scottish Government over a year ago - which mean that landowners and managers can no longer turn a blind eye to offences against wild birds on their land - are a major deterrent to those who think they are above the law.
“While it remains frustrating that a small number of people continue to illegally persecute birds of prey, this substantial decline is testament to the good work undertaken by the PAW Scotland partners to tackle the issue of raptor poisoning. There has been real progress but we will not be complacent. I am determined to stamp out these practices once and for all and will remain vigilant to any change in approach being taken by those who seek to persecute raptors.”
Douglas McAdam, CEO of Scottish Land & Estates and Duncan Orr-Adam, Head of Species and Land Management RSPB Scotland, issued a joint statement:
“Any incident of illegal poisoning of birds of prey is one too many, however these latest figures from SASA represent the most substantial progress on this issue for many years. We are encouraged that these reported and confirmed incidents of illegal poisoning indicate a further decline in cases, building on progress in the figures for the previous two years.
“The strenuous efforts of those involved in PAW Scotland, and those engaged with practical management on the ground are acknowledged. Both RSPB Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates are not complacent about this issue however, and there will be no let-up in our joint efforts to eradicate illegal poisoning, and all other forms of wildlife crime.”
Anyone who finds a dead bird of prey, and suspects it may have been poisoned, should contact the police as per the PAW Scotland guidance.
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.
The maps do not show exact location of incidents, in recognition of the fact that birds may travel some distance after exposure to the poison. 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 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 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.
Led by the Scottish Government, RSPB Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates, the map was compiled using data held by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA). The final results display the number and frequency of confirmed bird of prey poisoning incidents categorised by SASA as 'Deliberate Abuse' over the past five years. It was compiled with the support of the PAW Scotland Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery 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.
The incidents refer only to confirmed poisoning cases categorised by SASA as 'Deliberate Abuse' and not any other category of confirmed poisonings. The number of incidents does not indicate the number of birds killed. For a breakdown of the number and species of birds killed in the incidents listed go to: www.PAW.Scotland.gov.uk
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 restructuring the organisation to create a broader base, and revitalising efforts 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 designed 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 January 1, 2012. It does not have retrospective effect, and so applies only to offences committed after that date.