I have recently been made aware of a new web group - Birders Against Wildlife Crime - whose stated aim is to co-ordinate all relevant regulations, regulatory authorities, what to do and who to report it to should an individual see anything suspicious which they could directly attribute to illegal actions against our wild life.
Seemingly, this is an ambitious project with the support of some very prominent individuals (and organisations) - surely they can do no more than assist the Wildlife Crime Officers of the various Police Authorities around the UK? I'm glad it wasn't called Entomologists against wildlife crime; they being responsible for more rare (Red Data Book) species being deliberately removed from the eco-system than any rouge gamekeeper and for no better reason than to ensure that the id is correct as another specimen gets pinned to a board inside some darkened drawer. I digress (again!)
Before these guys sally forth into the wilderness looking for poisoned raptors or illicit activity near Golden Eagle nest sites they should perhaps turn up at the next twitch and observe the activities of their own. Camera wielding birders seeking to get ever closer to their subjects - if that doesn't constitute deliberate disturbance then what does?
Yes, of course I am just as appalled by the flagrant abuse of privilege that some of these huge estates continually demonstrate; the state of English Hen Harrier numbers being a direct consequence of these business enterprises, which masquerade as guardians of our countryside and associated traditional outdoor pursuits, yet show blatant disregard to the Wildlife legislation of the UK and EU. Will the advent of this latest initiative make any difference? I'm sure that the membership are very committed to their cause and very enthusiastic about the challenge ahead. Good luck guys - you're gonna need it!
A quick scan of Birdguides, this past week, reveals the presence of a "singing" Spotted Crake at Grove Ferry, Black-winged Stilts at various sites, Osprey and Garganey from all across the UK, all fully protected under our laws and all present at suitable breeding habitat - yet this info, thus an invitation to go and look, remains freely available. Are birders the only people who access this information? If Birdguides are serious about their responsibilities to birds and their welfare, none of this stuff should be reported. I once tried to post a photo of a summer plumage Black-throated Diver from an "undisclosed site" Highland Scotland (so pretty much anywhere) to have it refused because it contravened their stated policy of publication of info during the breeding season, other guys have had similar experiences with Peregrine and Barn Owl photos. I have to say that I was a little confused by this stance when the same service was announcing the presence of a singing Marsh Warbler (for its' third day) . I suppose what we'd all like is consistency - a bit like the standard of refereeing in the Premiership?
|Disturbed by a dog walker, but photographed by a birder (without a schedule 1 license).|
If this was at a nest site it would be me breaking the wildlife laws!
Wildlife crime is a massive subject. Do we now decide that badgers are to be poisoned/gassed en mass to eradicate bovine TB yet still seek prosecution of any individuals engaged in that barbaric pastime of "badger baiting" - yes I agree - let's also seek to prosecute the politicians, that supported the cull, for crimes against our indigenous wildlife. What of hare coursing? A sight that I witnessed a couple of winters ago, out on Worth Marshes. A spectacular contest between "long dogs" and wild hares - but now decreed an illegal country sport, alongside Otter, Deer and Fox hunting with dogs. People can still go rabbiting with ferrets and fly "captive" birds of prey at foxes, deer and hares; so the law has made the decision to play "God"? A bloke with a Goshawk can kill a hare without problem; use a greyhound, big trouble - where's the difference? There's still a dead hare! An emotive subject that will never find a consensus among educated people - opinions on both sides being held with equal vigour and passion.
I've no time for those selfish individuals who target the eggs of our rarest breeding birds - but can't help feel that we've lost sight of punishment fitting the crime? I read comments like "he should be locked up for life - fined £10,000 per egg" - ludicrous when two young drug addicts can slash a shop-keeper across the face, with a Stanley knife, and simply receive a caution. (This incident actually happened within 200 m of my front door!)
Will we ever be in a situation where the multi-nationals are found guilty of corporate wildlife crime? The decimation of habitat to build houses, airports, shopping centres, the introduction of mono-culture farming techniques to satisfy the demand for cheap food, the degradation of water quality due to modern effluent treatment techniques - it goes on and on. These institutions are massive players in the political world and legislation is just as much designed to protect their interests as it is to protect us and our wildlife. So, in conclusion, I don't think that we'll ever do anything more than scratch the surface of deliberate raptor persecution until the organisations, behind the massive shooting industry, are able to be held directly responsible for the actions undertaken, on their behalf, by any employees involved in this criminal activity. Only when the breaking of wildlife laws has a direct bearing on profitability will any of these organisations pay any heed to this aspect of our legal system. Until such times, small victories against individuals will do little more than serve to paper over the cracks of a very flawed system - after all said and done - money talks!