26th July 2013
A national protocol to investigate and document incidents of bird of prey persecution was established by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Veterinary Laboratory Service and the State Laboratory in 2011, and now provides information on the extent of illegal activities which impact our protected birds of prey in Ireland.
The initiation of this protocol was largely in response to an EU Pilot Case (EU-PILOT 1451/10/ENVI) which specified that Ireland did not have an adequate protocol for assessing and reporting on the impact of poisoning on vulnerable raptor populations. Prior to its development there had been numerous high profile and disturbing poisonings of birds of prey which confirmed that this archaic practice was still prevalent in the Irish countryside, and demonstrated the necessity to implement greater protection through increased investigation and enforcement.
As top predators, raptors are an integral component of a healthy and functioning ecosystem. Several of our birds of prey were driven to extinction by human influence during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The modern day cruel and indiscriminate use of poisons in addition to other forms of persecution has the potential to not only devastate their populations once again, but also impact on a wide range of other wildlife and seriously damage our “green” image, of particular importance to our agriculture and tourism sectors.
The new scheme, operated by the government bodies, with input from BirdWatch Ireland and the Golden Eagle Trust, aims to monitor the impacts and prevalence of illegal poisoning and other forms of persecution which affect Irish raptors, and is also designed to collect evidence to support prosecutions for these illegal acts.
The first annual report arising from this protocol, recently published on the National Parks and Wildlife Service website details all confirmed incidents of raptor persecution over the first year of the scheme in 2011. A total of 33 persecution incidents were confirmed in 2011, which included 24 bird of prey deaths. Of these, 15 individuals died from toxicosis due to poisoning and eight birds were confirmed to have been shot.
A number of different species were affected including Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, all of which died cruel and unnecessary deaths. One particularly gruesome incident which involved live pigeons, tethered to the ground and laced with an illegal substance claimed two young Buzzards and a single Sparrowhawk. Also concerning is the fact that many of the poisoning incidents involved the illegal use of substances including Alphachloralose and Carbofuran, which should no longer be in existence in this country.
Other confirmed poisoning incidents in 2011 included four dogs which reinforces just how indiscriminate the practise of poisoning is, which has the potential to not only affect the target species, but also a wide diversity of other wildlife and pets and even children.
Commenting on the findings of the report, John Lusby, Raptor Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland, stated, “The recent progress in terms of recording and properly investigating incidents of raptor persecution is obviously positive, but we need to ensure to implement further improvements if it is to be effective in tackling raptor persecution, and there is a lot more to be done to increase awareness and enforcement through this scheme.”
Lusby continued, “We also need to be fully aware that the cases which were confirmed in 2011 only represent a fraction of the illegal activities carried out against birds of prey and other wildlife across the country, the vast majority of which go unreported and unrecorded. Every year through BirdWatch Ireland we collate many more reliable reports of illegal activities such as shooting or poisoning, but these unfortunately are very difficult to prove due to lack of evidence or because a carcass can’t be retrieved and tested to confirm it was poisoned or shot.”
The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr Jimmy Deenihan, T.D., welcomed the report. “This gives us at least a partial view of the scale of the problem in Ireland”, he said. “It is simply not acceptable for majestic birds of prey and other wildlife to be persecuted or poisoned. First it is illegal, but just as important it harms our reputation as a clean, green country. I would urge anyone to report such incidents to the National Parks and Wildlife Service in my Department.”
The public can play a key role in facilitating the effectiveness of this scheme by reporting any suspected incidents to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (contact details in the phone directory and www.npws.ie), BirdWatch Ireland (01–2819878 or email@example.com) or the Golden Eagle Trust so they can be dealt with appropriately.
1. BirdWatch Ireland is the largest independent conservation organisation in Ireland. A registered charity, its aim is the conservation of wild birds and their natural habitats. Established in 1968, it currently has over 15,000 members and supporters and a local network of 30 branches nationwide. It owns or manages a number of nature reserves which protect threatened habitats and the birds that rely on them, works to conserve Ireland’s biodiversity, produces a range of publications dealing with birds and nature conservation in Ireland, and carries out educational and survey work. For more details, visit www.birdwatchireland.ie.
2. Download the NPWS press release.
3. Download the 2011 Bird of Prey Poison and Persecution Report.
To see the press release on The BirdWatch Ireland click here.