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RSPB appeals to shooting industry in Cumbria to help root out raptor killers

Police sieze illegal pole trap at Mossdale 2016, credit RSPB

[T]he RSPB has launched a confidential ‘Raptor Crime Hotline’ (0300 999 0101) to help whistle-blowers within the shooting industry in Cumbria come forward with information about bird of prey persecution.

The link between driven grouse shooting and the illegal killing of birds of prey, such as peregrines and hen harriers, has been widely documented. The RSPB’s latest Birdcrime report revealed over 80 confirmed raptor persecution incidents had taken place in 2016, with many more likely to have gone undetected. It also showed that Cumbria was the 9th worst county in the UK for confirmed illegal bird of prey incidents over the past five years.

The RSPB would like to see much more acceptance from shooting organisations about the scale and conservation impact of the persecution and more support to clean up the industry and help root out those involved.

Hen harrier (female) credit Guy Shorrock RSPB

Senior Investigations Officer Guy Shorrock, of the RSPB, said: “Illegal killing is not only robbing people of the chance to enjoy watching birds of prey but has serious consequences for their populations. We are sure there are people within rural and shooting communities who know who is committing these crimes but are cautious about speaking out. This 24-hour hotline provides a completely safe and confidential way to pass on information – calls are not recorded and are treated in the utmost confidence.

“We would like to see shooting organisations showing their support by including the hotline on their websites and encouraging their members to come forward with information regarding crimes against birds of prey in the UK.”

Over the years RSPB Investigations staff have spoken in confidence with gamekeepers and others within the shooting industry and received graphic reports of routine and intensive raptor persecution on many sporting estates. In addition, it has provided a disturbing insight into management culture and the pressure put on gamekeepers, often from the very start of their careers, to kill protected wildlife. The RSPB will continue to push the government to introduce licensing of driven grouse shooting to improve accountability of these estates and to promote good practise.

Guy Shorrock said: “I’ve spoken with several gamekeepers about the raptor killing they are expected to do as part of their job. It is abundantly clear that without any meaningful accountability for managers and employers on intensively managed driven grouse moors the situation will not change.”

If you have information about the illegal killing of birds of prey, please call the RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline for free on: 0300 999 0101.

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