RSPB Scotland’s latest report “Illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland in 2012” has shown a fall in the number of birds poisoned. The report claims that there were seven “confirmed incidents” of poisonings in 2012, compared with 17 incidents in 2011.
The figure of seven in the 2012 report includes what RSPB Scotland has defined as instances of poisoned bait (rabbits) and other “victims” which died ingesting poison that could have killed birds (ie cats). The number of birds of prey recorded as poisoned was only four: a golden eagle, a raven and two buzzards. This suggests that the number of confirmed incidents of a bird of prey being poisoned is actually down from 20 dead birds in 2011 to just four in 2012, though the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) only lists three confirmed bird-of-prey poisonings for 2012.
Though Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, welcomed the fall, the report states: “While this is an apparently marked reduction on the 17 poisoning incidents detected in 2011, it is important to reiterate that this figure merely represents those victims and/or baits that were actually discovered. The real number of casualties will be considerably higher.” The report also states that though there was a steep decline in confirmed poisoning cases, this did not suggest the illegal killing of raptors had declined.
A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said: “The RSPB has clearly spent a lot of money in writing this report, which entitles them to put forward their own viewpoint. With this agenda in mind, it is important that the public refers to the actual crimes, as published annually by the Scottish Government with information provided officially by the police and Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) [which produces the poisoning maps], rather than speculative possible or suspected cases, which are going to confuse.
“All PAW partners, including ourselves, are fully behind the printing of the official statistics annually, based on actual legal cases, and see no reason why this should change. While we have been encouraged by the progress made – with the official statistics stating only three confirmed cases of illegal poisoning of birds of prey in 2012 – reports such as this damage on-going partnership efforts designed to reduce crimes against birds of prey.”
Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) also commented on the report, welcoming the drop in poisonings. Douglas McAdam, chief executive of SLE, said: “Our members abhor wildlife crime and condemn it out of hand. We are fully committed to its eradication. We do not believe that because poisoning incidents are now very low indeed it can be assumed other forms of killing have taken its place. There have been significant reductions in both categories.
“It is right the RSPB report highlights the unacceptability of wildlife crime but we believe it would be more productive if the charity focused more on promoting what can be achieved in tackling the issue rather than trying to point fingers. The implication that this is always the fault of shooting interests is simply not borne out by the evidence.”