Suffolk and Essex revealed as bird crime hotspots

The injured Peregrine Falcon which was illegally shot is recovering at Lavenham Falconry in Monks El

The injured Peregrine Falcon which was illegally shot is recovering at Lavenham Falconry in Monks Eleigh. - Credit: Archant

A new report that lays bare the scale of UK wildlife crime reveals the East of England to be the second-worst region in Britain for the illegal persecution of wild birds.

The RSPB’s latest Birdcrime report, which covers 2013, highlights in particular the killing of birds of prey – known as raptors – and challenges the shooting community to acknowledge the problem and take action to stop it.

And yesterday, leaders of a recently launched Suffolk-based campaign against raptor persecution said the report represented “yet more evidence, if any more were needed” that British birds of prey were falling victim to slaughter on an “alarming and entirely unacceptable scale”.

Birdcrime 2013 reveals that the RSPB Investigations Unit received reports of 69 incidents of wild bird crime occurring in 2013 in the eastern region, including incidents involving 45 birds of prey, which accounted for 14% of the UK incidents reported in the report.

Across the UK, the eastern region – Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Lincolnshire – had the second highest number of bird crime incidents in 2013. It was topped only by northern England, where there were 113 reported bird crimes. The numbers of incidents in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire accounted for nearly half of the reported acts in the region. The report says there were 27 reported incidents of bird of prey persecution across the east. The species which occurred most frequently in the confirmed persecution incidents was buzzard, with 12 victims, followed by marsh harrier, with five victims.

Nationally, Birdcrime 2013 reveals 164 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey, including the confirmed shooting of two hen harriers, two marsh harriers, five peregrines and 28 buzzards. It also includes 74 reported incidents of wildlife poisoning and pesticide-related offences. Confirmed victims of poisoning include 30 buzzards, 20 red kites, a golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle. The figures were believed to represent only a fraction of the illegal persecution in the UK, with many incidents thought to be going undetected and unreported. “There is no sign of this carnage ending,” says the RSPB.

John Sharpe, the RSPB’s conservation manager for the East, said East Anglia was home to a “magnificent variety of birds of prey” but “unfortunately, we are being robbed of the chance to see these beautiful birds flourish because of illegal persecution.”

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He added: “The RSPB challenges members of the shooting community to acknowledge that illegal persecution is a problem within the industry and that a change of attitude is needed in order to make a serious and effective effort to finally consign bird of prey persecution to the history books.”

In the wake of the shooting of a young peregrine falcon found wounded near Long Melford earlier this year, and in response to the growing controversy over raptor persecution, a campaign has been launched by a coalition of Suffolk ornithological organisations.

Known as the Campaign Against Raptor Persecution, it has leading wildlife journalist and author Simon Barnes as its patron.

One of its founders, Steve Piotrowski, said yesterday: “The Birdcrime 2013 report is yet more evidence, if any more were needed, that the illegal persecution continues on an alarming and entirely unacceptable scale.

“We will be offering shooting estates the chance to declare that they are ‘raptor-friendly’ as we want to take a co-operative approach and work with them to put an end to the action of the rogue few who tarnish their name.”

Both the CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation have told the EADT they are totally opposed to any wildlife crime, and Suffolk police have said any reports of such crimes will be fully investigated.

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