Wildlife poach­ing soars as gangs tar­get deer, hares and small birds

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS - CLAIRE FOX

WILDLIFE poach­ing by crim­i­nal gangs has reached lev­els not seen since the 1980s, gar­daí have warned.

Deer, hares and small birds are among the tar­gets for crim­i­nals work­ing to or­der for ‘cus­tomers’ here and abroad.

Kil­dare Su­per­in­ten­dent Garda Martin Walker, who led the anti-poach­ing Op­er­a­tion Bambi in 2013, told the Farm­ing In­de­pen­dent that farm­ers are re­port­ing a no­tice­able rise in poach­ing — and in some cases have ex­pressed con­cerns for their own safety. He added that soar­ing prices for veni­son car­casses is driv­ing deer poach­ing.

“The last time the sit­u­a­tion man­i­fested it­self this much was in the 80s when the price for veni­son was very high.”

Some buy­ers are will­ing to pay up to €400/500 for the car­cass of a red stag. Supt Walker said that “nine times out of 10, the deer are shot” and sold on, but the prac­tice of us­ing lurcher dogs to kill deer has also in­creased.

“Peo­ple use so­cial me­dia to boast about the prow­ess and skills of their dogs to boost sales,” he said.

Small birds are also lu­cra­tive prey for poach­ers, said Supt Walker.

A pair of bullfinches can make up to €150. They are in de­mand be­cause when crossed with a ca­nary they pro­duce a hy­brid bird called a mule which has an ex­cep­tional voice.

“I walked into a shed in Car­low re­cently where one guy had 25 wild birds and I have come across in­ci­dents of find­ing birds in hot presses,” he said.

Traps

“With the dif­fer­ent traps and de­coys th­ese gangs have, they could catch up to 50 wild birds a night.”

Supt Walker re­cently held an anti-poach­ing train­ing event in con­junc­tion with the Na­tional Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice in Kil­dare, and over 65 gar­daí at­tended.

“They at­tended be­cause they have an in­ter­est and wanted to be trained up in it. I my­self got an in­ter­est in it when I was a young garda in Balt­in­glass and was deal­ing with poach­ing cases.”

He has called for more joinedup think­ing by stake­hold­ers to tackle poach­ing in a sim­i­lar man­ner to the UK’s Part­ner­ship for Ac­tion Against Wildlife Crime (PAW).

Bullfinches are in de­mand by poach­ers

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