Wildlife crime rise targeted with training of more police officers
The new campaign has been launched by Police Scotland to tackle the problem in cities, towns and rural areas.
More police officers in Scotland are to be trained in identifying wildlife crime following a continuing rise in the number of reported incidents.
Almost 250 crimes were recorded between April 2014 and February 2015 which included bird poisoning, badger baiting and trading in endangered species.
The new campaign has been launched by Police Scotland to tackle the problem in cities, towns and rural areas and "substantially increase the number of officers with specialist knowledge".
More than 100 police officers will be trained to investigate incidents supporting an already established network of wildlife officers.
Assistant chief constable Malcolm Graham said: "Scotland's natural heritage is under threat from criminals preying on the country's iconic wildlife, either for sport or many cases for their own gain.
"Wildlife crime doesn't just happen in the countryside, it also occurs in urban areas.
"We have evidence of badger baiting metres from housing estates, deer being poached from city parks and bat roosts being destroyed. Wildlife crime occurs across all of our communities.
"Tackling wildlife crime is not just about law enforcement, it is about working with partners and the public to raise awareness, and to prevent it happening.
"By the time we are involved it is too late, that creature is lost and our landscape is poorer for the loss.
"We are committed to investigating wildlife crime. Our detection rate is increasing but investigations into wildlife crime can be difficult and prolonged, and the areas covered can be vast and remote.
"Our new campaign calls on the public to help us put an end to wildlife crime, to keep their eyes open and reporting suspicious activity and, by working together, protecting Scotland's wildlife heritage."
Environment minister Dr Aileen McLeod added: "In Scotland we have long recognised the value of our wildlife and the importance of protecting it.
"Today sees the launch of this important campaign by Police Scotland which will play a key role in raising awareness about wildlife crime and what people should do if they encounter it."
Members of the public are also being asked to report any suspicious activity involving wildlife with online and newspaper adverts being launched to raise awareness.
Jennifer Dunn, from the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said: "It is a major issue in Scotland which the League Against Cruel Sports and other organisations have been working hard to bring to the attention of ministers and MSPs.
"It is crucial that people understand exactly what constitutes a wildlife crime and the impact it is has.
"Whether it's poaching, hare coursing, illegal hunting or birds of prey being persecuted through trapping, shooting and poisoning, the motives behind these crimes are invariably cruelty or financial.
"The impact wildlife crime has on the environment is immeasurable and the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and organisations which purport to represent rural areas must do all they can to stamp it out."
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