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County worst in the country for attacks on birds of prey – RSPB

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 05, 2012

A peregrine falcon feeds its chicks. Four peregrines were killed in Devon and Cornwall through shooting or poisoning

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Devon was the worst place in England for confirmed cases of bird of prey persecution in 2011, according to the RSPB's annual Birdcrime report.

After a year that saw four goshawks, a peregrine and a buzzard killed by illegal poisons in Devon, the wildlife charity is calling on the Government to tackle the illegal killing of birds of prey through reforms of wildlife law and policing.

Another two peregrine falcons were poisoned in Cornwall while another was shot.

Tony Whitehead, from the RSPB in the South West, said: "There were 15 reported incidents of crimes against birds of prey in Devon in 2011. Amongst these were the confirmed poisonings of four goshawks, a buzzard and the poisoning of a young peregrine at Buckfastleigh.

"In 22 years of working for the RSPB in the Westcountry, I have never known a year as bad as this.

"Although it's natural to speculate on who might carry out such attacks, for me the simple answer is the people that do this are nothing but common criminals and deserve to be treated as such, no matter what their motivation."

The RSPB believes a review of wildlife protection legislation by the Law Commission – currently being consulted on – provides a golden opportunity to address ongoing persecution of bird of prey in England and Wales.

This month will also see the publication of the House of Commons environmental audit committee's inquiry into wildlife crime.

RSPB conservation director Martin Harper said: "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to tackle the illegal shooting and poisoning of some of our most magnificent birds.

"I hope that tougher laws and penalties for wildlife offenders will help consign their crimes to the pages of history where they belong.

"We need Defra and Home Office Ministers, and the Welsh Government to step up for nature and make the right decisions. An essential first step is to secure the future of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which only has guaranteed funding until March next year.

"It's been over 100 years since poisoning of wild birds was outlawed in the UK and yet our report shows we're still witnessing the slaughter of kites, eagles and buzzards.

"Fewer incidents were recorded last year, but as our report highlights birds of prey continue to die at the hands of those who want to remove them from our countryside.

"Thankfully, vastly more people are inspired by the homecoming of eagles, ospreys and peregrines and recognise these charismatic species bring huge enjoyment to people and benefits for tourist economies."

The report – Birdcrime 2011 – catalogues 202 reports nationally of shooting and destruction of birds of prey, with the confirmed shooting of 30 individual birds in 2011.

There were also 100 reports of poisoning incidents involving the confirmed poisoning of at least 70 individual birds or animals.

Devon and Cornwall Police Inspector Nevin Hunter, the new head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: "In my police career, I have investigated many offences, including the deliberate persecution of birds of prey.

"It is unacceptable and there is a need to work to address it across the UK with the help of all partner agencies. The unit will support the taking of preventative measures and in addition will work to gather intelligence and take robust enforcement action to tackle persecution wherever found."

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  • mrbenn47  |  October 09 2012, 6:10PM

    mess with mother nature and the food chain at your peril, and all for looking after flying rats (sorry rats are much cleaner and carry fewer diseases)

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  • Keith_C  |  October 09 2012, 3:29PM

    Charliedodd I'm bored now You keep going around in circles, I have better things to do and more important things to worry about.. All the best!

  • CharlieDodd  |  October 09 2012, 1:44PM

    ..Keith said- 'Your attempts to generate hate for people with a different view to you is most unpleasant'.. All normal people ALREADY hate them for shooting pheasants out of the sky, just as people hate all blood sport "enthusiasts"..;)

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  • Keith_C  |  October 09 2012, 12:40PM

    CharlieDodd "Your comment As for the hooray henries who like shooting pheasants, they're already despised and the great Brit public have got them in their sights..;)" is simply laughable. Your prejudiced steriotyping of people who are taking part in a legal and legitimate pastime show a complete ignorance of the facts Yes some shooters may be what you call hooray henries but so what? and most aren't. As for the public I don't believe many would raise shooting as an issue unless they are asked in such a way that forces an answer, as proved in Mori polls in the past. Your attempts to generate hate for people with a different view to you is most unpleasant

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  • Stuboy13  |  October 09 2012, 10:08AM

    Has anyone even considered these birds may be committing suicide?

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  • CharlieDodd  |  October 08 2012, 5:10PM

    Blackpot said-"Pigeon fanciers and keepers on pheasant shoots,bunch of idiots'.. If they're poisoning falcons it'll backfire on them in the long run because it'll just make the public hate them and press for pigeon racing to be banned. For example, what could be crueller than to transport a pigeon hundreds of miles to force it to race home to get back to protect its chicks? As for the hooray henries who like shooting pheasants, they're already despised and the great Brit public have got them in their sights..;)

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  • Keith_C  |  October 08 2012, 9:58AM

    This should make me popular! Whilst I do not condone any law breaking at all and I would report anyone persecuting birds of prey as the law stands, I do think there is a case for an alternative view and for asking 2 questions on this. 1. Are all birds equal or are some more equal than others? 2. Is the RSPB actually The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds of Prey? To use a football analogy birds of prey are the premier league and our humble garden birds, League Two. Dare I say cannon fodder for the birds of prey Recently there was a government proposal to run a project to look into the effect Buzzards have on other birds, against which the RSPB led an effective campaign to prevent it happening. This suppression of a scientific approach to bird of prey numbers indicates e a fear of what the results would find, maybe the fear is there is an imbalance that cannot be sustained or at least justified I have seen a report, again suppressed, that estimates that annually 80 million song birds are killed by sparrow hawks alone,. Meanwhile the RSPB glibly blame "farming practices" .I would suggest there is a huge difference between protectionism and conservation, and I would suggest conservation is the balanced way forward I'm sure bird watchers and those who consider themselves bird lovers will be up in arms when they read this and will take some self anointed high moral ground but lets look at an excerpt from a bird watching website :-One of the most exciting occasions I recall was watching a male peregrine at Halvergate in pursuit of a starling. The quarry twisted, turned and doubled back at speed in an attempt to elude its pursuer. The peregrine relentlessly followed every move. The intended victim, by repeated sudden drops almost to ground level, succeeded in outwitting the much quicker bird. But not for long. The falcon changed methods and like a feathered rocket it made a rapid grab with outstretched talons. The starling seemed to explode in a cloud of feathers as it hurtled earthwards. Looks like a blood sport to me!

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  • blackpot  |  October 08 2012, 2:46AM

    Pigeo fanciers and keepers on pheasant shoots,bunch of idiots.

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  • Bod66  |  October 08 2012, 2:33AM

    I remember hearing/reading it has a lot to do with pigeon fanciers, some racing pigeons are worth a lot of money, there owners are not keen on there prize birds being taken out mid flight by a falcon, allegedly ;-)

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  • Harymary  |  October 07 2012, 10:59AM

    Does ANYONE understand why anyone would want to kill these beautiful birds to save other birds who will be killed anyway, by stupid idiots?

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