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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 01:02 GMT 02:02 UK
Bird nest thefts at record UK low
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

Red kite in flight   PA
Red kites are making a comeback
The number of thefts of British bird eggs reached a record low in 2003, a leading ornithological charity says.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says there were only nine nest thefts confirmed last year, which is the smallest number on record.

But the RSPB says another and grimmer record was also broken, with 16 rare red kites dying after being poisoned.

Its Birdcrime 2003 report documents 560 crimes against wild birds during the year, many involving birds of prey.

Parliamentary concern

The report lists 143 cases of shooting and destruction of birds of prey, and a total of 91 cases of illegal poisoning.

Ospreys and nest   PA
Far fewer nests have been raided
Graham Elliott, the RSPB's head of investigations, said: "The poisoning of 16 red kites in one year is shocking, and reflects the recent concerns of Parliament's environmental audit committee on the high levels of bird of prey poisoning incidents."

The committee published a report on wildlife crime earlier this month.

But the RSPB says the threat to birds from egg collectors appears to have declined "dramatically" in the two decades since record-keeping began.

In some years in the 1980s, it says, up to a quarter of all kite nests in Britain were stolen from.

Deterrent effect

The report shows the number of nest thefts of significant species fell to only seven confirmed cases in 2003, compared with 46 in 2000.

Graham Elliott said: "There is no doubt that the sharp decrease in the number of nest robberies is because seven egg collectors have gone to prison since the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 allowed judges and magistrates to impose custodial sentences in England and Wales, instead of just fines.

"Building on this success, a major future challenge is to ensure that effective enforcement and suitable penalties bring an end to the needless persecution and poisoning of our spectacular birds of prey."

Red kites were hunted to extinction over much of the UK, but a reintroduction programme has made them a familiar sight again in several areas.

Birds of prey face persecution
24 Jul 03  |  England
Wildlife crime in the UK
22 Apr 02  |  UK News


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