Page last updated at 02:58 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 03:58 UK

Scale of bird killings 'unknown'

Sea eagle
A sea eagle was among birds of prey targeted

The true scale of illegal killings of birds of prey remains unknown, according to RSPB Scotland.

Latest figures show 28 confirmed cases of illegal pesticide abuse killing or threatening birds of prey, including sea eagles.

And, 42 illegally set poisoned baits were found in Scotland's countryside.

The charity said, because many of the incidents happened in remote areas, the number confirmed was likely to be a "tiny fraction" of those killed.

Red kite, peregrine, buzzard and hen harrier were among raptors killed, or found to have disappeared from known sites.

'Serious impact'

Scottish Government agency Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) produced the figures, which showed a fall in the number of poisonings.

However, RSPB Scotland said killings remained unacceptably high.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland's head of species and land management, welcomed the efforts of landowners, the government and police in trying to conserve birds of prey.

But he said: "We know illegal killing of birds of prey is having a serious impact on the populations of iconic species such as golden eagles and hen harriers."

He added: "Birds of prey are national assets, with huge public, cultural and tourism appeal."

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead welcomed the decrease in confirmed poisonings.

He added: "In Scotland even one incident of deliberate, illegal poisoning would be one too many. It is shameful that some of our most iconic species continue to face illegal persecution."

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