Killing of raptors '˜widespread'

The killing of protected birds of prey is 'widespread' across Northern Ireland, a new report has found.

Monday, 27th November 2017, 7:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 4:02 am
A Peregrine Falcon

An illegal poison so powerful a single granule could kill an adult human and which is harmful even to touch, is being used in the killing of the birds,

The report’s lead author, Dr Eimar Rooney of the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, said that while some of the killing is likely accidental, the practice of leaving even legal poisons in the countryside in order to kill pests is “highly irresponsible”.

Over the course of 2015 and 2016, surveyors identified 12 confirmed cases where protected birds have been killed illegally.

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Since 2009, 57 birds of prey were confirmed victims of reckless or intentional criminal activity.

Dr Rooney said the actual number of birds being killed is likely to be much higher.

“What you have to remember is that this is often in very rural, often remote areas and it is often the case that the carcass is too decomposed to determine one way or the other what has happened,” she explained.

“The actual figure is likely to be much higher.”

In 2015/2016 three of the confirmed incidents involved the use of the poison Carbofuran, which has been banned across the EU since 2001.

The poison is banned across Europe because it is so toxic to any animal that comes into contact with it, including humans.

Dr Rooney said it was likely being purchased illegally.

Superintendent Brian Kee, PSNI service lead for rural and wildlife crime, said children are being put at risk.

“It isn’t acceptable for birds of prey or any other wildlife to be killed in this way,” he said.

“These actions are illegal and the use of toxic poisons is indiscriminate as they put children, pets and livestock at risk too.”

Regarding the findings of the new report, Dr Rooney said: “This latest persecution report helps us all to understand the scale and distribution of the problem.

“It is particularly shocking to see new areas appear on the hot-spot maps, showing the issue of raptor persecution to be widespread.”

“It is heart-breaking to think of the deaths of these protected birds but it is particularly shocking to see the continued usage of highly toxic Carbofuran.”

The report shows that, since 2009, the most frequent casualties have been buzzards, peregrine falcons, and the recently re-introduced red kite.

The investigation showed that birds of prey have been killed in five of Northern Ireland’s six counties, with Co Fermanagh being the only exception.