Police launch crackdown on criminals who endanger the lives of our birds of prey
Police have launched an initiative to target those who poison, shoot or trap birds of prey.
Operation Raptor will encourage people to report suspected crimes against birds of prey in Northern Ireland, after a 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 last year.
The PSNI partnered with the PAWNI raptor subgroup, comprising the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute, Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland, National Wildlife Crime Unit, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group and Royal Society for Protection of Birds, to launch the initiative during the annual Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group conference on Saturday.
PSNI wildlife liaison officer Emma Meredith said: "This campaign is a direct result of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime bird of prey persecution and poisoning report released in November 2015 and this campaign is designed to encourage people to report to PSNI and also to warn offenders they could face a prosecution and fine (up to £5,000) if they are caught targeting birds of prey through poisoning, shooting or trapping."
The report revealed that the most frequent casualty last year was the buzzard, with 19 birds killed, followed by the recently reintroduced 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.
Operation Raptor will involve placing warning posters in hotspot areas to try to deter criminals.
Chief Inspector Martin Simms, the Head of Unit for the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, added: "Focused work to tackle these horrible crimes in hot-spot areas seems to be a logical step forward, as exemplified in Operation Raptor.
"This reflects the approach in the rest of the United Kingdom where 'hot-spot counties' have been identified so action can be targeted for a more effective use of resources. Such impactive posters as Operation Raptor will hopefully make people understand the effect of these crimes and the suffering that is caused to such beautiful animals. I hope it will encourage people to report such wildlife crime".
If anyone has any information contact 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111