Bird crime in Scotland

This is a peregrine falcon video from National Geographic.

From Wildlife Extra:

Bird crime map of Scotland published

13/01/2009 11:50:34

January 2009. A map highlighting Scotland’s poisoning ‘hot spots’, where confirmed poisoning of birds of prey has taken place over the last five years, has been published.

Michael Russell, Minister for Environment, said that this is a ‘significant step forward’ as the level of crime committed against birds of prey has often been a source of contention between conservationists and land managers. The map was created using factual and verified information to establish a common understanding of the extent and general location of the problem.

Indiscriminate method of killing

Mr Russell said: “It is appalling that as we enter 2009 our birds of prey are still faced with persecution. Poisoning is an indiscriminate method of killing which poses serious risks to other wildlife, and even people, in our countryside. While I am pleased to see there has been an overall improvement in poisoning incidents the map clearly shows it remains a problem in parts of Scotland “Our wildlife is precious and deserving of our protection. Simply put, a crime against Scotland’s natural heritage is a crime against Scotland. I applaud those involved for working together on this important issue and hope their efforts will result in a safer Scotland for our birds of prey”. …

The map shows only incidents involving birds of prey. Other animal or bird species or poisoned baits are not included. The species of birds confirmed as poisoned and included in the incidents are:

Red Kite
Goshawk [see also here and here]
Peregrine falcon
Golden Eagle
Tawny Owl
Sea Eagle

Irish minister disgusted by poisoning of Golden eagle in Donegal: here.

Highs and lows for Irish Red Kites in 2011: here.

The Javan Hawk-eagle. National icon but target of illegal trade: here.

Portugal’s only nesting male Imperial eagle shot dead: here.

8 thoughts on “Bird crime in Scotland

  1. Namibia: Rare Birds Fall Victim to Poison And Traps

    Liz Komen

    16 January 2009, The Namibian

    FOR birds of prey 2009 has not brought relief from the weaponry used on farmlands for mammalian predator control.

    In the first week of the new year, Narrec (the Namibia Animal Rehabilitation Research and Education Centre) received two of our large and rare raptor species – a poisoned white-backed vulture and a leg-hold-trapped tawny eagle.

    Both were non-target victims of careless application of predator management techniques.

    The vulture (Gyps africanus) arrived at Narrec paralysed with extreme muscle cramps – symptoms of strychnine poisoning. However, this bird was fortunate enough to have been found by a concerned Namibian farmer and rushed directly to Narrec.

    After 48 hours of intensive treatment she recovered well. Then, after a further week of therapy and rest, the bird was ringed and tagged for identification and released.

    The tawny eagle was however a lot less fortunate. A farmer had set a leg-hold trap (also known as a steel-jaw trap, foot-hold or gin trap) to catch a leopard. The leg-hold trap is made up of two jaws, a spring of some sort, and a trigger in the middle.

    When the animal steps on the trigger the trap snaps closed around a foot or leg, preventing the animal from escaping. The leg bone of the trapped animal is often broken by the force of the trap’s steel jaws.

    A meat lure is used to attract animals to the trap or the trap is set along an animal trail. The tawny eagle was actually seen at the trap late in the afternoon but left until the following morning, by which time the sharp edges of its broken leg bones and the steel teeth of the trap had torn all the lateral tendons on its knee and severed all the veins and arteries of its trapped leg.

    Tawny eagles (Aquila rapax) are large birds of prey. They have the distinction of finding food by regularly scavenging or pirating prey from other eagles as well as by predating on small prey items; they have rather small talons for an eagle and are no risk to any domestic livestock.

    It is the scavenging nature of the tawny eagle’s behaviour that leads them, as non-selected victims, into the jaws of the farmer’s weaponry. As scavengers tawny eagles might be caught in badly placed leg-hold traps or become primary or secondary victims of poison-baited carcasses.

    In the latter half of the 1980s Dr C Brown, then the ornithologist at the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, studied, with the use of radio telemetry, the tawny eagle population in the Khomas Hochland. Over the five-year study period approximately 80 per cent of the adult breeding eagles in the study group were killed through direct persecution or indirectly as non-target victims when farmers attempted to catch or poison mammalian predators. A quarter of a century later, these same non-selective techniques are killing ever diminishing large birds of prey populations.


    Various types of traps and poisons have been used for predator control on livestock farms for many decades. Poisoning, snaring and leg-hold trapping are globally of the most contentious ways of controlling predators. The ethics of these methods are criticised for their serious negative effects on non-targeted mammals and birds, which occasionally includes dogs, cats and endangered wildlife species. The methods are also criticised for the inherent cruelty, as animals are usually badly maimed by the traps and often left to die slow and painful deaths.

    In order to make lethal and non-lethal methods of predator control target specific there are numerous and fairly obvious ways of handling the equipment. However, some farmers seem to not be bothered with or to be ignorant of obvious and necessary actions that can be taken to minimise the cruelty aspects as well as to prevent the non-selective nature of trapping.

    In the case of the latest tawny eagle leg-hold victim the farmer had left the trap with a farm assistant. This person, it can be assumed, although given lethal equipment has not been informed or did not use best practice methods.

    A scavenging bird looks for food by sight from above. A leopard uses its sense of smell. A trap of any sort or a poison-laced bait that is well hidden from aerial view will prevent birds from becoming non-target victims.

    Steel-jaw traps were first described in western sources in the late 16th century. They were widely used for fur-bearing animals in the early days of North American settlements. These traps do not kill; they hold the animal alive in steel jaws. The pain can be long and the slow death may involve hunger, cold, exhaustion and blood loss until the returning trapper ends it all.

    Because of the cruelty aspects and the known large number of non-targeted animals caught, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the World Veterinary Association, and the American Animal Hospital Association have declared leg-hold traps “inhumane”.

    The European Union (EU) banned the use of the “cruel and indiscriminate” steel-jaw leg-hold trap in 1995. EU regulations prohibit the use of these traps in the 15 member nations of the EU and prohibit the import of fur into the EU from those nations who had not prohibited use of leg-hold traps.

    As Namibia has a large beef export market to the EU we should be aware that the use of leg-hold traps may in the long term work to a national disadvantage. Worldwide the steel leg-hold is banned in over 88 countries.

    Namibia, as with many other jurisdictions around the world, has enacted statutes which forbid cruelty to animals. In Namibia the anti-cruelty laws relate to all animals. However, when certain predator control techniques are applied on farmlands cruelty is simply seen as a necessary practice.

    In Namibia leg-hold traps with appropriate names like ‘Terminator’ and ‘Magnum’ are available for both small and large animals.

    These traps are sold without warnings or descriptions that could assist an ignorant farmer in minimising the negative potential of catching non-target animals and of cruelty aspects. Modified traps are manufactured to reduce potential animal injuries, but are not readily available in Namibia. The modified traps have thick smooth offset jaws that are padded. But, like any other trap they need to be intelligently placed for the target species and to be checked very regularly.

    Throughout the world domestic livestock and game farm animals may be at risk of predation. The question remains as to whether any non-selective or cruel and contentious methods of predator control have a place in modern farming.

    Liz Komen is the Director of Narrec, situated in the Brakwater area north of Windhoek.


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