Over 30 protected birds of prey have been killed in Northern Ireland in the last 3 years. This announcement has come as the latest report on cases of illegal raptor persecution in Northern Ireland by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) has been published. The report found that in 2014, there were 9 confirmed poisoning or persecution incidences that targeted 11 birds of prey in Northern Ireland and that in the five year period between 2009 and 2014, there have been 44 confirmed cases of raptors being killed as well as one incident of nest destruction.
This report not only highlights the magnitude of the problem when it comes to raptor persecution, but also aims to identify those areas where it is common. By examining the apparent ‘trends’ in the persecution of birds of prey in Northern Ireland, PAW have been able to produce ‘hot-spot’ maps, which will identify areas where raptor crime is the most prevalent. County Down is currently the area with the most persecution cases, with 4 of the 9 incidences occurring here, whilst 2 occurred in County Tyrone, with Londonderry, Armagh and Antrim all having one case to their name. Buzzards and red kites have been the most targeted species, but a golden eagle, white-tailed eagle, sparrowhawk and peregrines have also been killed.
In the dark world of raptor persecution, there are three main methods used to kill: shooting, poisoning and trapping. In Northern Ireland, it seems the preferred method of choice is poison, with four of the incidents involving the exceedingly toxic pesticide Carbofuran, which is known as one of the most toxic carbamate pesticides and is highly poisonous to birds. Carbofuran has been banned in the EU since 2001. Due to the fact that buzzards and red kites often act as scavenger species, it is possible that some of the dead birds may have fallen victim to the poison by accident and were not specifically targeted. However, some of the cases and more specifically some nests, have clearly been the target of laid poison baits. In addition, a further 7 birds have shown levels of secondary poisoning by substances such as bromadiolone, brodifacoum, difenacoum, and/or flocoumafen, which are used as rodenticides. Although in these incidences poisoning was not thought to be the primary cause of death, it does show a worrying use of pesticides across Northern Ireland. The blatant misuse of these highly dangerous and toxic chemicals is not only reckless and irresponsible in terms of the wildlife it could harm, but also because of the overwhelming possibility that domestic animals, livestock and humans, especially children, could also be harmed.
Commenting on the report, Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Michelle McIlveen MLA, said:
“This report highlights the ongoing disregard for the safety of people and animals in our countryside through the illegal use of highly toxic poisons. The loss of vulnerable birds of prey to acts of persecution is extremely worrying, as they are a keystone species in our ecosystem and play an important role in the natural order.”
There needs to be a shift in attitude when it comes to birds of prey. These species are native to the ecosystems of the UK and Ireland and they should be protected and recognised by all as valuable and important species. All forms of their persecution is of course illegal, unacceptable and vicious, but poisoning shows a reckless, medieval and devil-may-care attitude to not only all wildlife, but also to humans.
PAW urge anyone with any knowledge or suspicions regarding bird of prey persecution to report it to the police.
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