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33 protected birds of prey illegally poisoned or persecuted in Northern Ireland, report finds

Warning some images may cause upset

Published 20/11/2015

A sparrowhawk.
Red kites and buzzards, the most frequently recorded victims, are particularly susceptible to poisoned baits as they will feed on carrion routinely.

A new report has highlighted the number of illegal poisoning and persecution incidents of birds of prey in Northern Ireland.

The report, by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAWNI), found that there were 30 illegal poisoning or persecution incidents, affecting 33 protected birds of prey.

The most frequent casualty was the buzzard, with 19 birds killed, followed by the recently re-introduced red kite (7) and then peregrine falcon (4 birds).

Other species that were recorded included a white-tailed eagle, a golden eagle, sparrowhawk and a merlin.

There were a further 10 confirmed incidents of illegal poisoning of other wildlife or poisoned baits in circumstances where birds of prey were potential victims.

Red kites and buzzards, the most frequently recorded victims, are particularly susceptible to poisoned baits as they will feed on carrion routinely.

There were an additional four probable crimes (including another white-tailed eagle) and 8 incidents where secondary rodenticide poisoning was recorded.

The report is the result of the work of the Raptor Subgroup of PAWNI facilitating cooperation between the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group (NIRSG), Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) and National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and analyses the results of post-mortem and toxicology testing carried out via Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and as reported via the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS).

The report lead author, Dr Eimear Rooney of the NIRSG, said: “The overall aim of collating the information in this report was to support government, policy and enforcement agencies to help us all, from authorities to the general public, to understand the scale and distribution of these incidents.

"I cannot bear to think about the deaths of these individuals, in particular the losses of both golden and white-tailed eagles and red kites, which may have a devastating impact on the survival of these populations.

"Working with a range of experts via the PAWNI Raptor Subgroup has allowed us to share our data and experience and produce this robust assessment which we aim to update annually.”

Minister for the Environment and PAWNI chair Mark H Durkan, welcomed the publication of the report.

He said: “It is a great shame people here are poisoning these wonderful, majestic creatures which brighten up our skies and countryside.

"I very much condemn the reckless and illegal actions of the minority in our midst who destroy beauty with painful death, leading to the loss of such iconic species. I urge the public to be vigilant and report offenders.”

Superintendent, Brian Kee, PSNI service lead for rural and wildlife crime, added: “This report highlights the continued disregard for public and wildlife safety displayed by a small number of individuals in Northern Ireland.

"These actions which destroy our native wildlife are illegal and the indiscriminate use of such toxic poisons may affect not only raptors but also children, pets or livestock.

"I would urge anyone with any information on these types of crimes to report this to the PSNI on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 and be assured of PSNI continued efforts in the tackling of wildlife crime”.

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