Page last updated at 14:58 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 15:58 UK

Condemnation for buzzard killers

Buzzard
The four buzzards were found poisoned in Dumfries and Galloway

A wildlife charity has called for a crackdown on crime against birds after it was revealed four buzzards had been poisoned in south west Scotland.

Investigators found illegally poisoned baits near the dead birds in March at Eaglesfield in Dumfries and Galloway.

Details of the incident have only just been released and police are seeking information about the crime.

RSPB Scotland said levels of poisoning had escalated in recent years and said it was time to take action.

Last year there were record levels of crimes against wild birds around the UK, according to the RSPB's annual report.

Everyone in the countryside must understand that using poisoned bait can lead to disastrous consequences and severely damage not only our wildlife but also our reputation
Mike Russell
Environment minister

The charity's investigations staff received a total of 229 reports of possible persecution incidents in 2007 in Scotland, with 16 in Dumfries and Galloway.

RSPB Scotland has launched a campaign calling for an end to the illegal killing of birds of prey.

Chris Rollie, area manager for Dumfries and Galloway, said the impact of the bird poisonings was significant.

He said: "When great efforts are being made to attract visitors to rural areas, the negative message of an illegally poisoned countryside is the last thing we need, whilst the effect on wildlife is appalling."

Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary has launched a joint investigation with the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate, assisted by the RSPB.

'Very disturbing'

Police said they were also concerned that members of the public could be put at risk from poisons left in the open.

Environment Minister Mike Russell said: "It is very disturbing that such incidents still take place.

"Everyone in the countryside must understand that using poisoned bait can lead to disastrous consequences and severely damage not only our wildlife but also our reputation.

"I would urge anyone with a knowledge about the culprits to inform the police as soon as possible and help the Scottish Government stamp out such barbaric and cruel practices."

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