The theft of eggs and chicks of birds of prey has almost ceased in Wales, but persecution rates are not declining - according to a new RSPB Cymru review, published today (24 August, 2021).
Crimes against raptors in Wales 1990-2019 - written by RSPB Cymru and published by the Welsh Ornithological Society - summarises the plight of raptors in Wales over the past three decades.
One of the key findings is that since the 1990s, egg and chick theft has almost ceased. Theft used to be a major problem in Wales, with eggs of raptors such as peregrines and red kites stolen by collectors. The chicks of goshawks and peregrines have also been targeted for the purposes of selling to falconers, including in the Middle East. But tougher penalties and a shift in public awareness and attitude has resulted in the detection of only a handful of cases in Wales over the past decade.
On the other side of the coin, the picture for raptor persecution (by shooting, trapping and poisoning) is less positive. While the number of confirmed incidents of raptor persecution fell in 2000 - 09 compared to the previous decade, there has been a marginal increase seen in the past decade. However, the real total could be much higher, as the number of confirmed persecution cases could only be the tip of the iceberg.
Most worryingly of all, the rate of poisoning cases has increased in the last 30 years, with 52 cases confirmed in the last decade. While laying poison baits in the open has been illegal since 1911, the review suggests that it remains a problem for wildlife in the Welsh countryside. Birds of prey, wild mammals and even household pets can fall victim to the abuse of pesticides.
Julian Hughes, RSPB Cymru Head of Species and lead author of the paper, said: “There has been good progress made over the past three decades to reduce the rate of crimes against our majestic birds of prey. The dramatic reduction in the theft of egg and chick shows that tougher action really does work. This has helped the welcome return of birds such as red kite that was once on the brink of extinction. However, the rise in persecution, and especially poisoning cases, is a big worry. There’s still work to be done to root out these deplorable acts of crime against wildlife.”