Fears for rare birds as death toll hits 12
A rare white-tailed eagle was among 12 birds of prey poisoned, snared or shot last year in Northern Ireland, according to a new survey by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
The Birdcrime 2009 report found 10 birds were poisoned, including buzzards and red kites.
A white-tailed eagle, one of Ireland's rarest birds, was shot and found floating on Lough Neagh by kayakers last October.
Half of the deaths through poisoning occurred in Co Down.
However, RSPB senior conservation officer Claire Ferry said that due to the reintroduction of red kites in Co Down over the past three years people in the area were more aware of the birds and more likely to report any crime.
“We rely heavily on the public,” Ms Ferry said.
“Unless people tell us of incidents of persecution we cannot look into them and the police cannot look into them.”
“Birds of prey are recovering from terrible declines in their population and their numbers are only just beginning to pick up. Such persecution is unwarranted and demonstrates a lack of understanding or tolerance.”
A campaign to strengthen laws around the persecution of birds of prey was launched last year and over 200,000 signatures were collected across the UK.
“It was extremely successful with over 2,000 people signing in Northern Ireland alone,” Ms Ferry said.
“It was also endorsed by members of the Environment Committee and the Minister for the Environment Edwin Poots. The RSPB also campaigned for a new schedule on the Wildlife Order that protects some bird of prey nest sites all year around. We are also pleased that the penalties for wildlife crimes have been increased. This is a good improvement in the protection these birds receive.”