A new report which examines the extent of wildlife crime in Derbyshire and its devastating effects on the natural environment is due to be discussed today. (Monday, July 22 2013)
Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles is to be presented with the findings of an in-depth study into the impact of a vast range of wildlife crime in the county including badger baiting, poaching and the persecution of birds of prey.
The report, which will be considered at a meeting of the Commissioner and Chief Constable’s Strategic Governance Board, reveals there have been approximately 200 incidents linked to wildlife issues during the past 12 months, a large proportion of which relate to poaching incidents. The figures, however, could be just the tip of the iceberg as many wildlife offences are not recordable crimes and the only means of capturing them is the force incident recording system.
Commissioner Charles is committed to reducing wildlife crime and has included it as a key area of focus within his first Police and Crime Plan. He feels that this type of crime is important enough to be a national priority. As part of his pledge to protect the Derbyshire landscape for future generations, Commissioner Charles is gathering information for a forthcoming Wildlife Summit on September 25 which will look at the options available for enhancing the investigation of wildlife crime.
The report, which will be fed into the Summit and includes supporting research from the RSPCA and the RSPB, raises concerns about the serious consequences of raptor persecution on populations of birds of prey within the Peak District National Park and its borders with Staffordshire and South Yorkshire. Species such as goshawks, peregrines, hen harriers and buzzards are all experiencing a catastrophic decline in numbers and there have been numerous examples of nests failing inexplicably despite suitable nesting habitat. Scientific evidence and past police investigations indicates that human interference at the nest or the killing of one or both of the adults is most likely responsible.
Most incidents are unreported because of the isolated location of the crime scene but Derbyshire Constabulary is working in partnership with a number of wildlife organisations including the RSPB and the Peak District Raptor Groups to tackle the problem.
In recent years, incidents involving the shooting, trapping, poisoning and nest destruction of birds of prey have all occurred within the county. The report said these types of birds are often targeted because they predate other birds including young grouse which brings them into conflict with the interests of shooting estates. In a recent incident, a gamekeeper was convicted of using a cage to trap and kill birds of prey while in other examples goshawk nests have been destroyed using a shotgun and buzzards have been poisoned.
Derbyshire Constabulary currently has 18 Wildlife Crime Officers (WCO) and two Wildlife Crime Scene Investigators split across the divisions, with a Superintendent having overall responsibility for Rural, Environmental and Wildlife Crime. The force is also keen to recruit dedicated special constables and volunteers to assist in the prevention of wildlife crime.
Responding to the report, Commissioner Charles said: “Derbyshire’s natural landscape and wildlife habitats draw thousands of visitors every year and I’m determined that they will continue to witness, and enjoy, the stunning variety of bird species and wildlife that live within Derbyshire. This means stepping up our intelligence capabilities and investigation techniques to prevent offenders from inflicting irreversible damage on our county.
“I think it is very telling, and terribly sad, that due to criminal activities many birds of prey have become practically extinct in parts of the British countryside including Derbyshire.
“This is why I welcome the fact that wildlife crime is becoming a national priority. This means forces and partners will be able to share and learn from one another’s experiences to enhance detection. Evidence shows that many of those responsible for wildlife crime are also connected to other areas of criminality and detection can expose a host of serious offending which is another good reason for taking wildlife crime so seriously.
“The research contained within this report will help us decide the best way forward and I’m confident that with the strong support of our partners we can permanently disrupt the illegal practices which take place within our countryside and safeguard our natural heritage.”
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Posted on Monday 22nd July 2013