Wildlife crime falls by 8% in 2016

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 8 December 2017 in News

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

Image credit: SNH

Wildlife crime fell by eight per cent in 2016, according to new statistics released by the Scottish Government.

But 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.

The wildlife crime in Scotland report showed 44 hunting with dogs offences were recorded in 2015-16, up from 20 the previous year.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham welcomed the report, saying it “provides useful data”, but warned the statistics do not include instances where a tagged animal has gone missing and may have been killed.

She said: “There is no room for complacency. We know from the report published earlier this year, that it is very likely that golden eagles and other raptors are being illegally killed every year, but where there is no body or tag to be found, these losses do not make it into the recorded crime figures.

“I have set out some measures to tackle the issue of missing raptors, including setting up an independent group to examine grouse moor management practices and a new pilot scheme to use special constables to tackle wildlife crime in the Cairngorms Park. I am determined to put an end to raptor killing and all other types of wildlife crime.”

Susan Davies, director of conservation at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, welcomed the fall in recorded crimes, adding “it’s likely the overall figures significantly under represents the actual number taking place, due to the difficulty of detecting incidents that often occur in remote, rural areas of Scotland”.

She said: “Wildlife crime comes in many forms from uprooting plants to baiting badgers or hare coursing, to poisoning or persecuting raptors and damage to protected sites. These crimes are unacceptable in modern Scotland, and it’s vital that a broad range of tools are deployed to combat them.

“These tools should include greater public awareness of wildlife crime, developing better scientific techniques to improve detection, standardised recording of incidents, increased penalties, and increased rates of prosecution and conviction.”

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The Scottish Government has introduced some very stringent legislation which has undoubtedly helped address the incidence of wildlife crime and this has been supported by a real desire by people working in land management to make progress.

“We and our members, who are enthusiastic participants in the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime, are committed to help address ongoing wildlife crime issues in a productive manner and we intend to put forward constructive suggestions to the forthcoming independent review of grouse shooting.”

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone will introduce a bill to the Scottish Parliament to ban fox hunting in Scotland, with the Scottish Government currently reviewing fox hunting laws, which allow foxes to be flushed from cover and shot dead for pest control.

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