GE2015 Day Five: Wildlife Crime

If you read my introduction blog you’ll know that throughout this week, running up to the general election, I am doing a blog a day about some key issues which affect wildlife in the UK and in some cases on a world wide scale. As I only have six days and I’m currently taking my GCSEs I’ve only been able to include six topics but of course there are many more. With these blogs I hope to show people the problems our wildlife faces, what we can do, who it affects, what will happen if we don’t address the problem, see if there’s been any mentions in party manifestos and much more! I’m also trying to exaggerate the fact that we should be voting for nature and the environment. Along with sending the posts to party leaders, MPs etc. It’s key that we address problems facing wildlife now so it’s not too late as when it is too late we’ll be in serious trouble.

Wildlife crime is a big subject to cover. First of all, the species of which the crime has been committed against, then what type of crime it is, e.g. shooting, poisoning. Then onto the law about this crime, how the criminal is caught, how it’s policed and much more. In an urban area say someone breaks into a shop it has most likely been caught on CCTV so it’s easy to catch the criminal, it’s most likely obvious that this crime has been committed and people know full well this is a crime too. For wildlife though, say in rural areas, the story is completely different. For a starters there is no CCTV so it has to be done by people themselves. But if there are people around they may not notice as they don’t realise this is a crime and therefore don’t report it. So how is this criminal supposed to be caught or punished? If there’s no evidence of what they’re doing and there’s no idea that they’re committing a crime anyway then there’s no hope! Also there is the worry of the issues not being policed properly, wildlife crime is rising yet there are still only a few wildlife crime officers for an area. In most cases the wildlife crime officers are just normal officers and deal with wildlife crime as a part time job. Fortunately in some cases people do realise what they’ve seen, for example wildlife enthusiasts which are aware of the on goings, and saboteurs.

In this blog I’m going to go through some examples of crimes against wildlife, the party manifestos, and how we need to stop wildlife crime through things like the general public which will bring me nicely on to tomorrows topic about inspiring and educating the next generation.

There are lots of different types of wildlife crime which are all awful and towards different species, whether it be here in the UK or on a global scale. On this blog I’m only going to look at birds and mammals, then more specifically within those topics.

Birds

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is the primary legislation which protects animals, plants, and certain habitats in the UK. This obviously includes wild birds. However this gets quite complicated as this Act only covers species which are resident or are a visitor to the European Territory of any member in a wild state. Birds including wood pigeons, carrion crow, rooks, magpies, jackdaws and gamebirds (within the open season) are legal to shoot under a General License.

Other protection for birds (under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 – Part 1) include

  • Kill, injure or take any wild bird
  • Take or destroy the egg of any wild bird
  • Take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird whilst it is in use or being built
  • Use traps or similar items to kill, injure or take wild birds
  • Disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1 while it is nest building, or at a nest containing eggs or young, or disturb the dependent young of such a bird.

All these types of crimes against birds takes place. It’s horrible to know this as it shows people don’t appreciate, understand or enjoy such things which give many of us so much pleasure and happiness. From amateur bird watchers which watch the birds visit the garden fielders to those who are avid and experienced birders who will spend a life time enjoying them. Not to mention the whole ecosystem and diversity they are part of within our landscape and countryside.

Punishment

The maximum penalty that can be imposed for an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (single bird, nest or egg) is a fine of up to £5000 and/or six months imprisonment.

Mammals

Unlike birds the law for mammals varies, mainly from species to species. Even though all of our British mammals are very important and equal I have decided to go through three different species to give a taster.

Badgers

Even though Sundays blog was partly to do with the welfare of badgers I have decided to include them again here. As mentioned before badgers are highly protected however experience disgusting crimes against them. Badgers actually have their own Act to protect them which you can see here – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1992/51/contents

As stated above, badgers are protected under the Badgers Act 1992 and any incident involving a badger is most likely to be a crime. A sum up of laws on this Act include

  • Kills, injures or takes a badger or attempts to
  • Treat a badger in a cruel way
  • Dig for a badger
  • Disturb or damage the sett
  • Uses any badger tongs in the course of killing or taking, or attempting to kill or take, a badger
  • Causing a dog to enter a sett
  • Disturbing a badger when it is occupying a badger sett

Recently I’m regularly seeing horrific stories in the news about cruel acts against badgers which is truly disgusting. This is most likely linked to the recent badger cull.

Bats

When you think of wildlife crime and mammals I doubt bats come to mind. However in Britain bats and their roosts are protected by both domestic and international legislation. Bats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, the National Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations. This is the legislation for England and Wales.

To sum the up, crimes against bats include

  • Deliberately capture, injure or kill a bat
  • Intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost or deliberately disturb a group of bats
  •  Damage or destroy a bat roosting place
  • Posses or advertise/sell/exchange a bat (dead or alive)

Again it’s really important that these laws aren’t broken as in recent decades bats have declined and therefore need urgent protection.

 Deer

I have decided to choose deer as they are again different to the two subjects above. The laws around deer are similar to those of the badger as they are mainly protected under a particular act which is the Deer Act 1991. In the UK we have six species of deer, of these two are truly native (Roe and Red deer) whilst the other four (Muntjac, Fallow, Chinese Water and the Sika deer).

Like I mentioned about grouse before they can only be shot at certain times of the year, these vary for the different species. Landowners are also allowed to shoot deer if they are shown to be causing damage.

From the Deer Act 1991 here are a few points I have summarised

  • Shoot from a moving vehicle
  • Shoot at night
  • Shoot out of season
  • Use anything except legal firearms to kill deer

Again deer poaching is another problem across the country. When I go along to my local police forces wildlife crime meetings it’s obvious that this issue is popular in the country.

Working together

As there can’t be security cameras dotted around the countryside or paid workers waiting patiently behind a tree for someone to commit a crime we have to think of a different solution. One solution is everyone being aware of the crimes which take place within the countryside and understand how they’re just as bad as urban crimes. To do this we obviously need to educate people so they know what to look out for and know why it’s against the law. This can be done by educating the next generation which is vital to end these hideous ongoings in our countryside. In tomorrows blog I will be going into more detail about this and other reasons into why we need to inspire and educate the next generation.

Manifestos

When looking through the manifestos for subjects relating to wildlife crime this is what I found:

Labour – in the Labour manifesto there was the mention of strengthening the hunting act (the idea of hunting with a dog/dogs) and dealing with wildlife crimes associated with shooting.

UKIP – Nothing

Conservative – They say that they will protect hunting, shooting and fishing, by this they mean protect the ableness to do it. They will also repeal the hunting act.

SNP – Nothing

Plaid- Nothing

Greens – In the Greens manifesto it says that they will ban the practise of grouse shooting and other ‘sport’ shooting.

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