Bird of prey poisoning


Scotland's birds of prey continue to be poisoned with illegal chemicals, according to the latest poisoning hotspot maps published today.

Figures from the Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) show that 28 birds were poisoned between January and December 2010. This is one more than in the previous year and means that 132 birds of prey have been deliberately killed in the last five years.

The maps, published by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland), show where confirmed poisonings have taken place and the Scottish Government, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Rural Property and Businesses Association have all been involved in their publication on behalf of the PAW Scotland Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group.

Environment Ministser Roseanna Cunningham attended the launch at the Doune Estate in Perthshire today.

She said:

"It's disappointing to see that there has been no improvement in the number of birds of prey being deliberately and illegally poisoned in Scotland in the last twelve months. The fact that 132 of these iconic species have been targeted in the last five years is unacceptable.

"It's especially sad that some of the victims, such as sea eagles, are part of reintroduction programmes and there really has to be a change in attitude amongst those who are persistently involved in killing raptors.

"We are taking measures to tackle this problem and have introduced a new vicarious liability offence as part of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill to make sure that those who direct or turn a blind eye to bird persecution can be held to account.

"I also fully support the work of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, which is looking at developing innovative ways to address this persistent problem."

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management for RSPB Scotland said:

"It is very disappointing to see that illegal poisoning continues at unacceptably high levels in our countryside, affecting the populations of golden eagles, red kites and other vulnerable bird of prey species.

"7 red kites, 4 golden eagles and a sea eagle were confirmed by Scottish Government testing to have been illegally poisoned in 2010, and we know that many other victims will have gone undetected in remote parts of our countryside.

"We welcome universal condemnation of such indiscriminate and illegal practice, and call on all responsible land managers to provide information to the police on those responsible for these crimes."

Doug McAdam, Chief Executive of the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association said:

"We have seen good progress in areas where there is good healthy partnership working such as Grampian where in 2010 there were no cases of illegal poisoning reflecting the fact that in Grampian the local PAW group works well with full participation by local estates and landowners and healthy relationships have been developed through Raptor Watch.

"While it is disappointing that 2010 did not reflect earlier reductions in the number of illegally poisoned birds of prey and a fairly static position nationally, the current situation demonstrates that collaboration and partnership are the way forward, not conflict and polarised views "

PAW Scotland is the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime in Scotland. PAW Scotland membership encompasses a wide range of bodies with an interest in tackling wildlife crime including conservation, land management, shooting and law enforcement organisations.

Led by the Scottish Government, RSPB Scotland and the SRPBA, the map was compiled using data held by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA). The final results display the number and frequency of confirmed bird of prey poisoning incidents categorised by SASA as 'Deliberate Abuse' over the past five years. It was compiled with the support of the PAW Scotland Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group

SASA is an Edinburgh-based scientific division of the Scottish Government's Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate. SASA Chemistry Branch provides a variety of analytical chemistry services and expert advice in support of the Scottish Government's participation in UK and EU annual surveillance programs that monitor the impact of pesticide use on food & drink, animals and honeybees. The unit also provides essential support to law enforcement agencies and non-government organisations investigating suspected (illegal) animal poisoning activities.

Using latest scientific technology, bird specimens, suspected baits, suspicious chemicals and poisoning paraphernalia are analysed to identify the type of poison, if any, used. The science behind the bird of prey poisoning maps helps to highlight the scale of the problem of deliberate and illegal attempts to poison wildlife and is a significant tool in the fight against wildlife crime.

These PAWS Maps of the Illegal Poisoning of Birds of Prey were developed though a joint initiative between the then Minister for Environment Michael Russell, SRPBA and RSPB with the express aim of producing a set of robust and accurate statistics on this problem that all partners could then work with to try and tackle the problem.

The maps show only incidents involving birds of prey. Other animal or bird species are not included. The species of birds confirmed as poisoned and included in the incidents are:

  • Buzzard
  • Golden Eagle
  • Peregrine falcon
  • Red Kite
  • Sea Eagle
  • Sparrowhawk
  • Tawny Owl

The size of 'spots' on the map indicates the number of incidents in that area. The larger the spot the greater the number of confirmed incidents.

Exact locations of incidents are not shown, in recognition of the fact that birds may travel some distance after exposure to the poison. The map therefore applies an obscurity factor to avoid any inference being drawn for the exact point of discovery of the bird, but still allows and overview of the worst affected areas.

The incidents refer only to confirmed poisoning cases categorised by SASA as 'Deliberate Abuse' and not any other category of confirmed poisonings. The number of incidents does not indicate the number of birds killed.

The arrangements for dealing with wildlife crime were the subject of a major review in 2008, by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Inspectorate of Prosecution. The Scottish Government is implementing the recommendations that relate to PAW. These involve a restructuring of the organisation to create a broader base, and a revitalisation of effort with work being taken forward through focused sub-groups. The mapping project is a result of the partnership working.