Town & Coun­try

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

THE num­ber of birds of prey that are shot, cap­tured or poi­soned in the UK has de­creased by al­most two-thirds since 2015, finds the new RSPB Bird­crime 2016 re­port. How­ever, the prob­lem per­sists and Eng­land is still far worse than Scot­land, Wales and North­ern Ire­land.

Hen har­ri­ers have de­clined by 27% in the past 12 years and there are now only three suc­cess­ful nests in Eng­land; a third of satel­lite-tagged golden ea­gles dis­ap­peared in Scot­land in 2016. Last year saw 81 con­firmed in­ci­dents of rap­tor per­se­cu­tion— North York­shire, where hen har­ri­ers haven’t bred since 2007, has emerged as by far the worst county—but, for the first time in three decades, not one per­son was pros­e­cuted.

The char­ity sug­gests that driven grouse shoots should be li­censed and ad­vo­cates that the Scot­tish sys­tem of ‘vi­car­i­ous li­a­bil­ity’, whereby em­ploy­ers can be con­victed un­less they can prove they have taken ac­tions to pre­vent crime, be rolled out across the rest of the UK.

‘Birds of prey bring our skies to life. There’s noth­ing like see­ing a div­ing pere- grine or a sky­danc­ing hen har­rier. Un­for­tu­nately, il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity is pre­vent­ing these birds from flour­ish­ing. There are laws in place to pro­tect them, but they’re clearly not be­ing put into ac­tion,’ laments RSPB con­ser­va­tion di­rec­tor Mar­tin Harper. ‘We need gov­ern­ments across the UK to do more.’ How­ever, ‘shoot li­cens­ing is not the an­swer’, warns BASC chair­man Peter Glenser. ‘It will not have any im­pact, other than in­creas­ing costs and bu­reau­cracy for reg­u­la­tors… Al­though the RSPB high­lights is­sues that need to be ad­dressed around rap­tor per­se­cu­tion, there is a need for clearer think­ing.’ He con­tin­ues: ‘We must not lose sight of the im­mense good done by the shoot­ing com­mu­nity, but the crim­i­nal mi­nor­ity dam­ages us all and the shoot­ing com­mu­nity needs to speak as one… The RSPB has shared in­ter­ests [with us] in high stan­dards and an end to wildlife crime and this needs to be based on the facts and a com­mon com­mit­ment to the task… We must also talk plainly and openly with those who may not im­me­di­ately be con­sid­ered friends of shoot­ing. There is a need for hon­esty from all sides.’ Amanda An­der­son, di­rec­tor of the Moor­land As­so­ci­a­tion, agrees: ‘Any in­ci­dent of bird-of-prey per­se­cu­tion is un­ac­cept­able and the full force of the law should be felt by those break­ing it. The sta­tis­tics in the lat­est re­port show that the num­ber of such in­ci­dents con­tin­ues to de­cline sig­nif­i­cantly and there has been a very sub­stan­tial drop in in­ci­dents over the past five years. This is what we all want to see. Of course, more can be done and the best way to achieve progress is for peo­ple across the sec­tor, in­clud­ing the RSPB, to con­tinue to work to­gether con­struc­tively.’

Hen har­ri­ers (top left), kestrels (left), buz­zards (top cen­tre) and red kites (above and top right) are still be­ing il­le­gally killed

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