As the hen harrier teeters on the brink of extinction as a breeding bird in England, Coalition and Welsh Government Ministers have a once in a lifetime opportunity to tackle the illegal killing of birds of prey in England and Wales, and must not waste it.
That’s the message from the RSPB as it publishes its annual wildlife crime figures showing yet another shameful year of poisoning, shooting and trapping for red kites, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, goshawks and other persecuted species. Just one pair of hen harriers bred in England in 2012, with Government’s own studies suggesting that illegal killing is the major factor in their decline.
In Lancashire in 2011 the RSPB received 36 reports of incidents relating to birds of prey.
Too little has been done over the years to stop these sickening attacks on birds, but this could change with proposed reforms of wildlife law and policing. The RSPB believes a review of wildlife protection legislation by the Law Commission - currently being consulted on - provides a golden opportunity to address ongoing persecution of bird of prey in England and Wales.
This month will also see the publication of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into wildlife crime while the imminent reorganisation of the police service and the creation of National Crime Agency will provide further opportunities to prioritise wildlife crime.
RSPB Conservation director Martin Harper said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to tackle the illegal shooting and poisoning of some of our most magnificent birds.