The UK’s Peregrine Falcons are now, according to the available data, breeding more successfully in urban areas than in rural ones. In other words, one of the world’s most perfectly-adapted hunters, an iconic symbol of rugged sea cliffs or magnificent uplands, is being persecuted out of its traditional haunts but is doing well on office buildings and church spires where it’s a little harder for wildlife criminals to get to them. Have a listen to our podcast with Ed Drewitt, author of ‘Urban Peregrines’, from 2016 to get the full picture – the issues we discuss are just as relevant today as several years ago.
As was widely reported wildlife crime has rocketed during the country’s lockdown, and many ongoing investigations are focussed on land managed for grouse shooting. Much of the crime spree has been credited to gamekeepers, the upland’s self-styled ‘essential keyworkers’, taking advantage while the public (and their prying eyes) remained indoors. But it appears that egg thieves have been out and about too (though of course – and this is purely idle speculation, m’lud – the two groups could be one and the same: some gamekeepers have been getting rid of Peregrines for decades so why not flog the eggs to falconers rather than just stamping on them?).
As the BBC reports today:
Eggs from peregrine falcon nests at three different sites in the Peak District were taken in early spring, Derbyshire Police has revealed.
The force said there could be a number of individuals or groups responsible as part of a “black market trade”.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said the eggs may have been removed while volunteers – who patrol the White Peak area – were forced into lockdown in late March.
Rural crime officer PC Karl Webster said the eggs would be worth a lot.
“We believe they’re taking them to hatch,” he said.
“There’s a lucrative Middle Eastern falconry market allied to this country, an investigation two to three years ago confirmed that.”
The birds of prey, which were heavily persecuted in the 1960s and suffered from the impact of pesticides, have recovered in numbers in recent years.
However, they are still illegally killed and targeted for their eggs and chicks. David Savage, from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said the taking of eggs was “sickening”.
“We began the season with great hopes and tried to keep an eye on them as much as we could, but unfortunately when we couldn’t watch them 24 hours a day, they were taken,” he said.
“It has been difficult to monitor the site in lockdown – the end of March and early April was when our volunteers were indoors.”
In May, the RSPB said it had been “overrun” by reports of birds of prey being illegally killed since the lockdown across the UK.BBC News 16 June 2020
The war on wildlife never stops, and it was all too likely that criminals weren’t going to call a truce while deaths from Covid-19 mounted up and the country joined together to support the NHS and local communities – but it does just show (again) the sort of detritus that our wildlife needs protecting from. Give them an inch and the b*stards will take everything in sight.
If you suspect a wildlife crime is taking place please call the police on 999, or to report a historical crime (ie one that has already taken place) please use 101. If you prefer to remain anonymous – and there are many good reasons why you might want to when reporting these rural hooligans – call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111