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People could be killed, warns expert as three birds of prey die in spate of poisonings

By Linda Stewart

Published 06/05/2016

A Peregrine Falcon
A Peregrine Falcon
The peregrine falcon that was found poisoned in Ballymena

Wildlife experts have warned that someone will end up dead after tests revealed that three birds of prey found in Co Antrim had been poisoned.

A peregrine falcon found dead at a Ballymena quarry and a buzzard discovered in a Glenarm forest were both found to have been poisoned with a pesticide called carbofuran, while a second buzzard found near Glenarm had been exposed to alphachloralose, a form of rat poison.

Dr Marc Ruddock of Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group said he was very concerned that someone could end up dead and he was flabbergasted that carbofuran could have been targeted at a working quarry.

"Carbofuran is absolutely lethal stuff. The health and safety implications of this alone in a quarry are just mindboggling," he said.

"My understanding is that these three birds were all found in Co Antrim. There is clearly someone, or a series of people who are targeting birds. To use poison in a working quarry - someone is going to end up being killed. It's killing wildlife, but the risk to humans is unimaginable. I am flabbergasted."

Dr Ruddock paid tribute to the quarry owners and the PSNI for acting quickly to determine the cause of death. "Someone knows somebody that is doing this," he said.

Police said a peregrine falcon was found dead at a quarry on the Glenhead Road in Ballymena on April 11. A peregrine falcon was also found shot dead in the same area in 2012 so the PSNI had requested that the poison tests be expedited.

A buzzard was found dead at a forest in the Glenarm area on March 15. Both birds were tested to determine the cause of death and it has been determined both were subject to carbofuran poisoning. Another buzzard was reported dead on March 29 near Glenarm and tests have shown it was exposed to alphachloralose.

In 2014 there were only 57 successful breeding pairs of peregrine falcons in Northern Ireland. PSNI Wildlife Liaison Officer, Emma Meredith, said: "Poisons can have serious implications and reports such as this give rise to serious concerns. Poison generally is very dangerous and we would have particular concern over any poison, but particularly over Carbofuran.

"We are disappointed that this continues to happen, especially with such a dangerous substance, which could kill not only birds of prey but also, a child, family pet or any adult coming into contact with it. We would remind the public if there is a suspicion on any bird of prey to leave the birds and bait in situ and call the PSNI as soon as possible.

 "If anyone has information about these birds we would be keen to hear from you. The person responsible needs to be identified before other wildlife, domestic pets, or even humans come to harm."

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