Operation Raptor! It sounds like it could be the next Hollywood blockbuster, with explosive actions scenes, car chases and enough explosions to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, Operation raptor will not be hitting our screens anytime soon and, despite our despair at being denied such a spectacle, there will be no Tom Cruise running through the British countryside, trying his damnedest to protect our birds of prey. Although operation raptor may not be as glossy and glamorous as all that, it serves a much more important service. Protecting birds of prey.
In simple terms, Operation Raptor is aimed at encouraging the public to report any suspected crimes that have been committed against birds of prey. Where is this operation taking place? Northern Ireland. Why the sudden launch of such an operation? Well, it comes after the Patnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAWNI), found that there had been no less than 30 cases of illegal poisoning and persecution incidents in the country in 2015. Operation Raptor is a partnership initiative that has been agreed between several groups including: the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), members of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAWNI) Raptor Subgroup, which includes the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, RSPB, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland, Agri-food and Biosciences Institute and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
In 2015, Northern Ireland played host to 30 bird of prey persecutions, including the persecution of 19 buzzards, 7 red kites and 4 peregrine falcons, along with a white-tailed eagle, golden eagle, sparrowhawk and merlin. Clearly, this is unacceptable. So the campaign wants to encourage people to report crimes and increase the awareness of offenders that they could be fined and face prosecution if they are caught harming birds of prey. Sounds like a good idea, right? But how can this be achieved? So far, the ideas involve placing warning posters in wildlife crime hotspot areas. Focusing efforts in areas where these crimes occur frequently is of course a logical step and will hopefully reinforce the illegality of such actions. But will it work? Will a few posters, no matter how threatening they are, really help in the fight against raptor persecution?
The aim of such plans to encourage people to report crimes can only be a good thing. After all, they’re not doing any damage and if it does make the public more aware of wildlife crime then this must be a step in the right direction. But what about the offenders? It has also been claimed that ideas such as posters will hopefully help to highlight the damage that persecuting birds of prey does and the pain it causes to the creature. But if you are an individual who will trap, poison or shot birds of prey for whatever reason, are posters really going to be what stops you? You already know it’s illegal and the fines and punishments entailed, so why would a poster stop you? In all honesty, it probably wouldn’t. Unless you thought that there were now more eyes and ears out there who might see you committing your crime. The eyes and ears of the public.
Only time will tell how effective operation raptor will be. Will it work? Will people care? Will offenders be bothered by increased awareness? Hopefully the outcome will be a positive one. However, no matter whether you think such a course of action will be effective or not, it is action. Action that can’t hurt and if it helps to bring attention to one of our most prevalent wildlife crimes, the persecution of birds of prey, then well done Northern Ireland. So, do we bet that Wales and England will soon be following in these Irish footprints? Any takers? No?
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