Wildlife crime is on the rise, with thousands of incidents reported in the first half of 2009, the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

The information was released to Liberal Democrat MP and shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary Tim Farron in response to a Parliamentary question to DEFRA’s Huw Irranca- Davies on 21 July.

The Government revealed that 3,064 wildlife crimes were reported between January and July 2009, compared with 3,514 reported in the whole of 2008. Very few people are actually being prosecuted, however. Though 1,658 wildlife crimes were reported between April and December 2007 only 88 people were prosecuted for wildlife crimes in the whole of 2007, 56 of whom were found guilty.

“The low priority given to enforcing our wildlife laws is letting offenders off the hook,” said Mr Farron. He said that the Liberal Democrats recently published Our Natural Heritage: Policies on the Natural Environment, which includes proposals to clamp down on wildlife crime with stronger penalties and stricter enforcement. “Though Labour postures as a champion of the environment, a failure to direct resources properly could threaten the survival of rare species. We need proper enforcement and stronger penalties to clamp down on criminals who are getting away scot free,” Mr Farron added.

Crimes that have seen serious increases include badger persecution, habitat destruction,nest destruction and poaching.

BASC’s Tim Russell commented that it is encouraging to see that there is political support for bringing in tougher sentences for people who commit wildlife crime, including poachers. “Poaching is a serious crime, which affects many estates and shoots in the UK, so we would obviously support any measures that would help tackle this problem,” he said.

The release of the information coincides with conservationists accusing police chiefs of ignoring wildlife crime. On 18 August, more than 100 organisations led by the RSPB called for a review of how police protect birds and animals.

The rest of this article appears in 26 August issue of Shooting Times.

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