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Last Updated: Tuesday August 18 2009 07:16 GMT

Wildlife crime being overlooked

A sea eagle

Police need to do more to help animals and wildlife, according to a group of more than 100 wildlife charities.

The charities say police aren't doing enough to stop people who commit crimes against animals because they don't think the crimes are important enough.

The RSPB is leading the group, and says there aren't enough police officers who are experts in protecting animals.

The groups understand the police have lots to do, but say animal crimes are pushed "to the back of the queue".

In 2006 the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) was set up to help police catch wildlife criminals.

The NWCU has said crimes against birds are very important to it, but the RSPB says that in some areas those laws aren't being enforced.

Lots of animals targeted

The NWCU is based in East Lothian in Scotland. Most people know it tries to protect endangered species like birds of prey.

It also works to protect badgers, fish and hares from people hunting them illegally, roosting badgers and fresh water pearl mussels.

In 2008 the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) recorded 3,514 reported incidents of wildlife crime, but just 51 convictions.