Belfast Telegraph

Twelve birds of prey killed in Northern Ireland by shooting or poisoning in two years

By Eamon Sweeney

Twelve protected birds of prey have been killed through criminal activity in two years, an animal protection agency revealed yesterday.

Six buzzards, five peregrine falcons and one sparrowhawk were illegally poisoned or shot, the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW NI) said.

Dr Eimear Rooney from the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group said birds of prey had been killed in five of Northern Ireland's six counties, with Co Fermanagh being the only exception.

She explained: "This latest persecution report helps us all to understand the scale and distribution of the problem.

"It is particularly shocking to see new areas appear on the hotspot maps, showing the issue of raptor persecution to be widespread. It is heartbreaking to think of the deaths of these protected birds but it is particularly shocking to see the continued usage of highly toxic Carbofuran.

"The PAW NI group will continue to take action to tackle raptor persecution and it is encouraging to see all the partners proactively working together on this report."

The investigation found that in three cases, the birds were poisoned using Carbofuran, a pesticide that has been banned across the European Union for over 15 years.

It was blacklisted in 2001 because of its high toxicity to animal and human life.

In the nine remaining instances, death occurred through the use of other banned substances used to kill rodents while some of the birds had been illegally shot.

The Ulster Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) said the destruction of birds of prey is "undoubtedly an under-reported crime that proliferates well away from the public view".

A spokesperson said: "Poisons and traps are indiscriminate and this charity has, on many occasions, seen companion animals and other unintentional victims endure terminal suffering.

"Like all wildlife crime, the agencies responsible for investigation and prosecution rely on receiving reports of concern to trigger investigations.

"The USPCA is fully committed through its membership of PAW to support the PSNI in their efforts to bring those responsible for the destruction of these magnificent creatures to justice."

The latest figures also show that overall, 57 birds of prey were killed illegally in Northern Ireland during the last eight years.

There were 49 cases of suspected wildlife crime involving birds of prey reported to the PSNI in 2015 and 2016.

In some of these cases the birds were found to have died of natural causes and others were in a state of such advanced decomposition it was impossible to come to any conclusions.

However, 20 birds tested positive for the consumption of rat poison laid out by landowners.

Superintendent Brian Kee, PSNI service lead for rural and wildlife crime, added: "Wildlife crime, including the illegal killing/poisoning of birds of prey, is taken extremely seriously by police.

"It isn't acceptable for birds of prey or any other wildlife to be killed in this way.

"These actions are illegal and the use of toxic poisons is indiscriminate as they put children, pets and livestock at risk too."

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