Reduction in bird of prey crime welcomed… But further action is needed

There was a significant drop in recorded crime against birds of prey last year, according to new figures.

Maps produced by the campaign group Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (Paw Scotland) show 14 confirmed bird of prey offences compared with 19 the previous year.

Species illegally killed in 2016 included buzzards and a goshawk, while the golden eagle and osprey were victims of disturbance.

The maps also show four recorded incidents of poisoning, four shootings, three cases of disturbance and three trapping or attempted trapping offences. Poisoning incidents fell from six to four.

It gave 2016 the second lowest number of recorded poisonings in a single year since the campaign began publishing maps in 2004.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham welcomed the reduction but said further action was needed.

She said: “I’ve ordered a review of the data from satellite tagged birds of prey in an attempt to shed new light on the disappearance of a number of tagged birds. The illegal persecution of Scotland’s magnificent birds of prey must end.

“The national wildlife crime unit plays an important role. I’m delighted to confirm a further year of funding to allow it to continue its important work.”

Douglas McAdam, chief executive of campaign partner Scottish Land and Estates, said: “We’re pleased and encouraged.

“There’s still work to do and the evidence points to measures that have been put in place having the desired effect.

“Scotland has one of the toughest legislative regimes around bird of prey crime. These figures clearly show that it’s playing a significant part in reducing bird of prey crime, even though proposed new penalties for wildlife crime generally are not yet introduced. That should help deliver a further fall in raptor crime and needs to be given time to work.”

Echoing that, a spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “No-one can change the past but there’s definite evidence of changing attitudes regarding crime against wildlife in Scotland.”