This first report since the introduction of the Wildlife & Natural Environment Bill Act gives a balanced and authoritative overview of wildlife crime in 2012, highlighting increasing levels of poaching and illegal coursing.
The body of the report is split into the six UK and Scottish priority groups of wildlife crime, each having its own specialist group at the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland
• Badger persecution
• Bat persecution
• Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) issues
• Freshwater Pearl Mussel persecution
• Poaching (including deer poaching, hare coursing, fish poaching) and
• Raptor persecution (including poisoning, trapping, egg theft, nest disturbance).
Poaching (including fish) and coursing are the most commonly reported of all wildlife crimes in Scotland and have been shown to have links with other types of rural, violent and organised crime. As a result, these crimes are of particular interest to the police and are especially concerning to rural communities. There was a total of 39 court proceedings in 2012 for this group of offences, of which 22 achieved guilty verdicts. This group accounts for half of all the wildlife crime legal proceedings in 2012.
The police also report that the three most common priority intelligence types (as a percentage of the total number of intelligence logs) in the last three years have been poaching of deer and fish and hare coursing. Scottish Land & Estates chair sthe PAWS poaching and coursing sub-group and are working with partners to raise awareness of this growing problem.
Raptor persecution traditionally attracts strong publicity, but 2012 saw the continuation of a very welcome downward trend in cases of poisoning with only three recorded. There were a further ten cases of other types of raptor crime recorded; three trappings, two shootings, two cases of Peregrine egg/chick theft, two of Osprey nest disturbance and one unknown.
The other three main priority groups most relevant to Scottish Land & Estates members are badgers, bats and freshwater pearl mussels. There were 11 crimes against badgers, which is broadly average for the last five years. The number of bat crimes rose slightly to 10 cases in 2012, while suspected incidents involving freshwater pearl mussels dropped to just two in 2012.
The figures are complicated by the different sources of data making precise comparison difficult, but overall the report puts the wildlife crime problem into a national perspective and provides a valuable baseline for future monitoring and prevention work by PAWS partners.