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RSPB demands action on illegal killing of raptors in East Anglia

PUBLISHED: 08:58 03 February 2017 | UPDATED: 08:58 03 February 2017

A male hen harrier

A male hen harrier

Nature conservationists are today demanding an urgent Government crackdown on wildlife crime as a new report revealed illegal persecution of birds of prey is continuing in East Anglia.

A red kite - a species that has suffered persecution in East Anglia. Photo: RSPBA red kite - a species that has suffered persecution in East Anglia. Photo: RSPB

The RSPB’s latest annual Birdcrime report shows that some of the region’s most impressive and iconic raptor species, including marsh harrier and red kite, are on a death list with individuals being shot, trapped and poisoined despite having full legal protection.

Of 41 wild bird crimes recorded in eastern England in 2015, the report shows 24 involved the shooting, trapping or poisoning of raptors. The crimes include the confirmed shooting of three common buzzards, a marsh harrier and even a red-footed falcon, which is a rare UK visitor that breeds in eastern Europe and is much sought-after by birdwatchers. The poisoning of two common buzzards and a red kite is also confirmed.

Overall national bird crime figures are said by the society to be “lamentable”. The Birdcrime 2015 report reveals 196 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey across the UK, including the confirmed shooting of 16 buzzards, 11 peregrines, three red kites and a hen harrier as well as the red-footed falcon. Of the total 92 confirmed persecution incidents, 61% occurred in England, 29% in Scotland, 9% in Northern Ireland and 1% in Wales, but these figures are thought to represent only a small fraction of crimes against wild birds in the UK, with many incidents of persecution going undetected and unreported.

Phil Pearson, the RSPB’s senior conservation officer in eastern England, said: “The numbers in the report speak for themselves, and sadly they show that illegal raptor persecution is something that still happens here in the East of England and throughout the UK.

“It is well past time that illegal killing of birds of prey was consigned to the history books. I hope the Government will respond to this latest call for action to see this happen.”

Despite raptor persecution being identified as one of the Government’s top wildlife crime priorities in 2009, the RSPB says persecution remains an issue of “serious concern” with about 590 birds of prey being confirmed as poisoned, shot, trapped or destroyed in the UK in the last six years.

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