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Birdwatchers launch wildlife crime battle

Two trustees of the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) are the co-founders of a new campaign group set up to encourage birdwatchers to record and report wildlife crime.

Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) says it is “not affiliated to any existing charity or organisation” despite the fact that LACS trustees Charlie Moores and Lawrie Phipps helped found it.

BAWC’s aims are to mobilise birdwatchers to recognise, record and report wildlife crimes. It encourages them to make the most of their observational skills and the powerful optics and cameras most carry with them to film and photograph suspected crimes so that the chances of prosecution are increased.

On his blog, Talking Naturally, founder member Charlie Moores said BAWC is running three main campaigns for 2014 and is planning events and training sessions.

A dedicated BAWC website is to be launched, and the campaign’s creators have announced their intentions via social media, using the slogan and Twitter hashtag #weseeyou. In a Tweet, the campaign said: “To answer an email question, no we are NOT raising ‘an army of vigilantes’ — we want to put 1000s of observers in the field. Yep #weseeyou.”

The RSPB is also looking to step up its surveillance activities. The charity is recruiting for overnight protection staff to watch over hen harrier nesting sights in the north of England.

According to the RSPB’s job description, “the main purpose of the job is to prevent disturbance/destruction of nesting hen harriers if a nest is found”. The description also states that “the nest surveillance will be overt, with the intention of deterring persecution, rather than a covert attempt to catch perpetrators in the act.”

It goes on to explain that the protection staff will be responsible for ensuring that the work is carried out “in a safe manner which minimises any disturbance to the birds, as directed by the Species Protection Coordinator”. However, the RSPB gives no explanation of how such overt surveillance can be conducted without serious risk of causing nest abandonment — the very thing it is intended to prevent.

Chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and Shooting Times contributor Lindsay Waddell said: “Given that desertion rates of hen harrier nests are high anyway, any additional disturbance is not good.”