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Over 700 birds of prey killed in 20-year period, according to RSPB

A review into the number of wildlife crimes in Scotland is a cause for concern for charity

Under threat: Birds of prey in Scotland continue to killed illegally
Under threat: Birds of prey in Scotland continue to killed illegally © STV

More than 700 birds of prey were illegally killed in Scotland between 1994 and 2014, according to a review.

RSPB Scotland said its research showed a "significant majority" of cases took place in areas associated with game-bird shooting but it noted that in recent years there have been some "welcome reductions" in the number of cases reported from lowland areas of the country.

In total, 468 were poisoned, 173 were shot and 76 were caught in illegal traps. The figures include 104 red kites, 37 golden eagles, 30 hen harriers, 16 goshawks and ten white-tailed eagles.

The charity said its report by the specialist investigations team deals only with incidents that have been confirmed as involving criminal activity and the number of birds killed could potentially be higher.

Stuart Housden, the charity's director, said: "We recognise that many landowners and their staff have helped with positive conservation efforts for birds of prey, particularly with reintroduction programmes for white-tailed eagles and red kites, and that the majority operate legitimate shooting businesses; but there are still far too many who do not act responsibly and there will be no improvement in the conservation status of raptors until all land management is carried out wholly within the law.

"We welcome measures taken by the Scottish Government over the past 20 years to improve the laws protecting our birds of prey and the recent improvements by Police Scotland and the Crown Office in tackling wildlife crime.

Poisoned: Illegal pesticides are among the more common causes of death
Poisoned: Illegal pesticides are among the more common causes of death

"However, our data shows that illegal killing of raptors continues to be a widespread problem in significant parts of upland Scotland.

"These crimes impact the natural wealth of Scotland and undermine our international reputation, wildlife tourism and diversified rural businesses."

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has criticised the review for its lack of scope, insisting that it does not accurately reflect recent trends of criminality against wild animals in Scotland.

A spokesman for the SGA said: "This document is solely about RSPB's lobbying objective of grouse moor licensing.

"The only concrete evidence in it is the small section on the official figures from 2013/2014 verified by Police Scotland, Scottish Government and SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture), and used by all agencies, including ourselves, in the fight against wildlife crime.

"The latest official statistics, released in September, showed the number of crimes committed against wild animals in Scotland, including birds of prey, fell to its lowest level in five years, which was praised by Scottish Government, although no-one is being complacent.

"The rest of this report's figures are taken from historic RSPB Scotland reports with its own context applied on what may or may not have happened, which is unhelpful."

Numbers falling: Deaths have fallen but campaigners want to see more action
Numbers falling: Deaths have fallen but campaigners want to see more action © RSPB

The Scottish Government have this year considered recommendations to cut down on wildlife crime, including proposals that people convicted could be imprisoned for a year and fined £40,000.

Environment minister Aileen McLeod said: "There is no doubt that the figures in this report make for uncomfortable reading, but we have made progress in recent years with the new vicarious liability provisions, the publication of the report from the Wildlife Crime Penalties Review Group, new measures implementing restrictions on the use of general licences and earlier this year the Scottish Government funded pesticide disposal scheme that removed over 700kg of illegally held poisons in Scotland.

"I have noted that the RSPB are calling for the Scottish Government-funded review into game licensing in other countries to be commenced and I can confirm that tenders to carry out this important research were invited on December 11."

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