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Scottish shops raided during major action to tackle wildlife crime

Falconry is a form of bird control. The birds are used to try and scare off feral pigeons or gulls.
Falconry is a form of bird control. The birds are used to try and scare off feral pigeons or gulls.

Ivory jewellery, fur coats and animal-skin handbags have been seized by police as part of a major campaign to tackle wildlife crime.

Operation Wingspan, which launched in October, is targeting a number of areas including raptor persecution, hare coursing and deer poaching – which have all had major implications for the north and north-east.

Just yesterday, officers said a bird of prey found dead in the Highlands had been poisoned with an illegal pesticide.

A post mortem examination revealed traces of the chemicals in the red kite, which was discovered near Ruthven two months ago.

Joint searches with the RSPB were carried out in the area earlier this week, but no further poisoned birds were found.

Under the first phase of Operation Wingspan, officers from across the country visited more than 300 businesses at risk of trading in endangered species, including pet shops, retro stores and antiques dealers.

They confiscated a number of items on suspicion of being sold illegally, with tests under way to confirm their origins.

Officers are now turning their attention to wildlife crimes involving badgers, working with charity Scottish Badgers to train staff and help protect vulnerable sites.

Police statistics show the number of wildlife crimes reported in Scotland doubled during lockdown, which the force says highlights the need for widespread operations such as Wingspan.

Detective Chief Superintendent Gary Cunningham has hit out at those responsible for wildlife crime
Detective Chief Superintendent Gary Cunningham

Detective Chief Superintendent Gary Cunningham said: “Scotland’s vast, beautiful habitat is home to internationally-renowned species that attract thousands of nature lovers and tourists every year.

“However, there are those who seek to either destroy this natural habitat or kill protected species illegally for their own personal gain or even ‘sport’.

“Crimes committed against wildlife are often cruel and barbaric, from using poisons or snares to hunting deer or badgers with dogs.

“The injuries they inflict can often result in slow, painful deaths.

“We will continue to work closely with a wide range of partner organisations to reduce the harm to species targeted by criminals and the communities who rely on them for employment and tourism across Scotland.”

A Scottish Badgers’ spokesman added: “Every year we receive a high volume of inquiries from members of the public with concerns about badger crime and not knowing what constitutes as one.

“Badgers and their setts have legal protection and it is an offence to cause damage or disturbance in any way to both.”

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