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Monday, September 20, 1999 Published at 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK


Wild birds threatened by crime

Birds of prey, such as this falcon, are most at risk

Crimes against wild birds must receive stiffer penalties, including custodial sentences, if the UK's rarest species are to survive, a leading wildlife charity has warned.

A report by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds found that crimes against birds rose by 10% in 1998, to a total of 738 incidents.

[ image: Five golden eagles were killed last year]
Five golden eagles were killed last year
Birdcrime '98 revealed "a catalogue of killing, nest robberies and poisoning involving some of the UK's rarest birds".

Birds of prey were the group most commonly persecuted, being involved in 321 incidents.

Of those birds, 85 were killed - including 44 buzzards, 15 peregrines, seven red kites (a species which the RSPB is working to re-introduce), five golden eagles and one osprey.

Nests robbed

Egg theft also rose, from 109 incidents in 1997 to 125 last year, with rare and threatened species again the favourite targets.

Among the nests robbed were those of the white-tailed eagle, red-necked phalarope, osprey, goshawk and golden oriole.

Those convicted of theft can face fines of up to £5,000 per egg stolen.

Prosecutions last year resulted in fines totalling £34,125, the largest single fine being one of £3,500 for the illegal possession of rare birds' eggs.

Calling for tougher sentences, the RSPB's head of investigations, Graham Elliott, said: "Many persistent offenders appear to treat convictions as no more serious than a parking ticket, to be paid and forgotten.

"Effective deterrents are needed to stop nest robbers, poisoners and trappers from plundering or persecuting the nation's most valuable wildlife. "

The society says early indications suggest that 1999 will be a record year for bird crime.

So far this year, three buzzards, three red kites and two golden eagles have been poisoned, several rare birds have been found shot dead, and many nests have been robbed, including those of four golden eagles.

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