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RSPB Report paints a misleading picture
regarding wildlife crime
Filed 01 Aug 08
The RSPB has published a report which gives a misleading picture of bird persecution in the UK. The organisation's claims about bird crime could damage the wider fight against wildlife crime and see vital resources stretched in the wrong direction.
That was the response of the Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) to allegations cast by the RSPB in its annual report on bird crime. Though not an official report, the RSPB claims that 'bird crime figures continue to soar' yet Government and police statistics reveal this not to be the case.
Tim Baynes, Moorlands Director with the SCA said:
"There is a discrepancy between the number of incidents 'reported' to the RSPB by its members and the number of actual confirmed incidents or legal actions taken. The result is a report which is misleading and unfortunately the RSPB seem more intent on an agenda against gamekeepers than giving a true picture.
"The SCA condemn all forms of wildlife crime and are steadfast on the need to reduce proven incidents, but we prefer to rely on the hard statistics issued by the Government as a basis for analysis. It stands to reason that if the RSPB continue to ignore this evidence they may be pushing the fight against wildlife crime in the wrong direction with vital resources wasted. Police may spend their time on investigating dead ends because of RSPB pressure, rather than what the evidence tells us. Bird persecution and wildlife crime are too important for us to lose focus, and we welcome the lead being given by the Environment Minister Mike Russell."
The SCA points out that there are actually some reasons for optimism on bird persecution - all taken from the RSPB's own report:
· The number of confirmed poisoning incidents across the UK has decreased to 76 after a high point in 2006 of 85 incidents
· The number of reports of poisoning also declined from 190 in 2006 to 165 in 2007
· This is still too many cases, but the trend is encouraging given that the populations of almost all birds of prey continue to increase steadily, particularly in Scotland
· Egg collecting / nest robbery incidents continue their steady decline, and have gone down by nearly half between 2006 and 2007. Police efforts over the last decade have been very successful, and most incidents now seem to be hardened collectors who are not deterred by the law
· The number of legal prosecutions involving wild birds almost halved from 62 in 2006 to 33 in 2007
· Police resources devoted to tackling wildlife crime have increased, and their expertise has also improved steadily over the past years, so this would seem to be having a real impact on bringing down the number of provable wildlife crime incidents
· Reports of illegal taking of birds of prey (falconry) and non birds of prey (CITES) have also continued to decline.
Said Mr Baynes:
"The category of bird crime with the largest increase in reports was the shooting and destruction on non birds of prey - up from 475 reports in 2006 to 619 reports in 2007 (a 30% increase). This is only dealt with in two brief paragraphs in the RSPB report, which is odd because it is the category with the highest and most unexpected increase. On its own, the non-bird of prey category more than accounts for the overall increase in reported incidents between 2006 and 2007 - the most serious cases being unrelated to sporting estates.
"There has also been a nearly 45% increase in disturbance incidents involving photography and bird watching/monitoring, although absolute numbers are low. This may be connected with greater access to the countryside and will need to be watched in future.
"The RSPB should put aside what seems to be a persecution of gamekeepers and sporting estates, and join with the people who work in Scotland's countryside to find solutions to wildlife crime and bird persecution."
Tim Baynes, Moorlands Director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, can be contacted by email on