RSPB Scotland: Wildlife crimes figures represent “the tip of the iceberg”
The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee hears that crimes are still going under-recorded
Golden eagle - credit: SNH
RSPB Scotland has warned MSPs that official wildlife crime figures are just the “the tip of the iceberg”, with only a small proportion of crimes currently being recorded.
Appearing in front of the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations, Ian Thomson, told MSPs that although wildlife reporting “continues to go from strength to strength”, crimes are still going underreported.
He said: “It is important to highlight the scientific basis for some of the concerns and to highlight the fact that we are dealing with only a proportion of what is going on – it is only the tip of the iceberg, as was referred to in the previous evidence session – but the report is certainly good.”
The most recent annual wildlife crime report records 284 crimes were recorded in 2014/15, up from 255 in 2013/14.
But Thomson pointed to research from 2008, which suggested that in one instance, official figures on red kite poisoning in the north of Scotland represented around a quarter of the actual number of poisoned birds.
Andy Smith, representing the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said he was “disappointed” to hear crimes were going underreported, but added that “on the ground, I definitely see a massive change in what is happening and in attitudes from the situation 20 or 30 years ago in the industry”.
Asked if Police Scotland could estimate the number of wildlife crimes that are currently going unrecorded, Detective Chief Superintendent Scott said: “We cannot, to be frank. As with any crime area, there is an unknown quantity of crime out there – the dark figure, as we sometimes call it.
“People say that reported crime is the tip of the iceberg, which might well be the case. We can investigate only what we know about. I am afraid that I cannot give you an estimated figure for the crimes that we do not know about.”
With illegal traps often placed in remote locations, investigators have previously struggled to collect evidence of wrong doing
While the overall number of recorded crimes fell from 284 instances in 2014/15 to 261 in 2015/16, the number of crimes involving hunting with dogs rose to its highest in five years
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