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Bear claws and alligator's head bought on eBay seized by police

By Linda Stewart

Published 23/10/2015

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan and little Luciano Lopes with some feathered friends at the launch of the new campaign
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan and little Luciano Lopes with some feathered friends at the launch of the new campaign

Police searching a house in Lurgan found bear claws, a tiger skin rug and an alligator head - all illegally bought on eBay.

And in Limavady a man received a suspended sentence after he was found to have caught finches in lime and put them up for sale.

These are among a catalogue of sinister wildlife crimes that the PSNI has investigated in recent years.

Between January and July this year, the police received 186 reports of wildlife crimes - more than double the figure for the whole of last year (117).

Now a new campaign launched by the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime (PAW NI) is calling on the public to take wildlife crime seriously and help prevent it.

'Watch Out For Wildlife Crime' aims to raise awareness of what a wildlife crime is, why it is important, things to be avoided and how to report anything suspicious.

Speaking at the campaign launch, Superintendent Brian Kee said the PSNI recently carried out a series of searches for poisons used to kill wildlife, investigated the deaths of two buzzards and carried out operations against deer poaching in Fermanagh and Tyrone and salmon poaching in Bushmills and the north west.

He said the illegal wildlife trade was the fourth most lucrative in the world, netting criminals between $10bn and $20bn year.

"Make no mistake, wildlife crime is a crime like any other," he said.

Wildlife crime can cover everything from salmon and deer poaching, disturbing and killing badgers, killing birds of prey to disturbing nesting birds and uprooting wild flowers.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: "We have launched this campaign to highlight to the people of Northern Ireland activities which are potentially harmful to so many of our native wild species.

 "We aim to educate people that sometimes their actions inadvertently cause significant harm to wildlife.  Of course, there are also other elements which involve much more extreme forms of criminality; those who target wildlife inflicting great cruelty for their personal pleasure or those who illegally exploit or target our wildlife for financial gain."

 He said the aim of the campaign was to increase awareness of what constitutes a wildlife crime, increase reporting by the public and "work towards dramatically reducing all forms of wildlife crime".

Superintendent Kee added: "But let's be very clear - those who intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or disturb protected wild animals or wild flowers are criminals and deserve to be brought to justice.

"So anyone who witnesses suspicious behaviour or suspects a wildlife crime is taking place or has occurred contact the Police Service on 101, or in an emergency ring 999. The report will be fully investigated and where evidence of a criminal offence is found the offender will be reported to the Public Prosecution Service with a view to a prosecution.

"Or anyone who wishes to report information anonymously can ring the independent charity CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111."

The campaign is delivered by PAW NI which is comprised of statutory and non-Government organisations involved in protecting against wildlife crime.

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