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In a fresh attempt to tackle poaching after reports that the number of incidents in Scotland had increased dramatically over the past 12 months, the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland last week introduced a new campaign to encourage the public to report incidents or suspicion of poaching to their local police or through Crimestoppers.

Minister for community safety, Fergus Ewing, launched the initiative, hoping that it would raise awareness of the scale of the problem among the wider Scottish public.

Statistics from the National Wildlife Crime Unit show that reported incidents of hare poaching had risen by 120% since 2008, deer poaching by 47% and incidents involving the poaching of fish such as salmon had increased by 75%.

Figures for 2009 are expected to be even higher.

At the launch, Mr Ewing was shown recent evidence of deer poaching on Atholl Estates, where it is estimated that an additional 40 to 50 deer are taken illegally each year.

He said: “I am concerned at the large rise in poaching and coursing in Scotland over the past year. These crimes involve serious, organised criminals and have a significant economic impact on rural communities across Scotland.”

Deputy chief constable Iain MacLeod, from Central Scotland Police, said: “There is evidence of a significant increase in poaching and, in some cases, completely inhumane treatment of animals. There are also some isolated cases where game is being purchased from criminal groups without the necessary evidence that it has been taken legally, and in my view those involved in such activity are equally as guilty as the poachers themselves.”

Members of the public who suspect poaching activity are urged to contact their local police station or to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.