Tag: wildlife crime

Suffolk police and the Wildlife & Countryside Act

The following blog post was sent to us on behalf of Suffolk-based George Millins, and highlights an issue that we have highlighted many times on this site: wildlife legislation ONLY EVER protects wildlife when it is enforced. If the agencies supposed to be enforcing the law (in this case Suffolk police) don’t know or understand the legislation (the Wildlife & Countryside Act), that protection is often lost and important species destroyed. While the site involved here may have been small, as the post points out, the slow-worms and common lizards present on it were supposed to be protected from killing and injury by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

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Operation Wingspan | A year-long wildlife campaign

In October this year a twelve-month campaign was launched to tackle wildlife crime in Scotland, based on the seven wildlife crime priorities set out by the UK Wildlife Crime Tasking and Co-ordination Group and the National Wildlife Crime Unit. All are extremely damaging to wildlife. In 2016 the UN estimated that the annual value of illegal wildlife trade was as high as $23billion, putting it behind only the drugs trade and human trafficking. Badger persecution – including baiting, illegal development, and sett blocking/destruction – is magnifying the already disastrous impact of the government sanctioned slaughter of badgers on behalf of the dairy trade. All the UK’s bat species are protected by law but developers are still destroying roosts and nurseries. Freshwater Pearl Mussels may seem like a more obscure concern, but this once common mollusc is listed by the IUCN as Endangered and the only viable population left in England is in Cumbria: there are more viable populations in Scotland but these are also under threat of decline. Hare coursing is an enormous problem for a species that is already suffering from huge declines because of agricultural intensification. Raptor persecution is – as anyone reading this site will know all too well – a massive problem on shooting estates, where protected birds including Hen Harriers are routinely eradicated to protect shooting profits. Cyber-enabled wildlife crime, an ‘umbrella’ term for crimes which either take place online or where technology is a means and/or target for the attack, is one of the fastest-growing criminal activities across the world.

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Grouse moors | licencing slaughter

Licencing is touted as a way of controlling the chaos and dead wildlife of the grouse shooting industry. It would, apparently, involve a shoot obtaining an operational licence from a regulator which would, at minimum, have conditions attached mandating the shoot follows wildlife and environmental protection codes of practice and laws. Where there is evidence suggesting that a shoot has failed to follow those conditions the licence can be withdrawn, even if the evidence pointing to criminality is less than sufficient to merit criminal proceeding. Which sounds sort of reasonable, but let’s think about what that actually means for wildlife for a moment…

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Egg thief Jeffrey Lendrum denied early release

Following the press-release last week that Peregrine eggs had been taken from three sites in the Peak District during lockdown, some better news for the UK’s nesting birds: Jeffrey Lendrum, perhaps the world’s most notorious egg thief, has lost a bid to be released from a UK prison after serving part of a 37-month sentence for trying to smuggle nineteen eggs and two live chicks (worth up to £8,000 each on the black market) into Britain for export to the Middle East.

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Peregrine falcon eggs taken from three sites in Peak District

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 taking advantage while the public 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?)

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While we were in lockdown, the wildlife criminals were out in force

It was feared (or suspected) that wildlife criminals would exploit the Covid-19 lockdown to ramp up illegal killing while monitors and field workers were obeying the rules and staying inside. Latest figures released by the RSPB show that the wildlife criminals have indeed been out in force, selfishly and illegally turning their guns and poisons on raptors. It seems they just can’t stop themselves. Which makes it way past time we stopped them instead.

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Press Release: Wildlife criminals taking advantage of COVID-19 crisis

“Criminals are using the COVID-19 pandemic as cover for a significant increase in wildlife crime in Central and Eastern Europe. In March alone, in total at least 27 protected birds of prey were illegally killed in Austria and another three in neighbouring Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Several other suspected cases are still being investigated and clarified, while the number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher.” Press Release from WWF Austria

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