The rate of persecution against birds of prey in Wales is increasing, especially in areas where game birds are managed, according to a new report authored by RSPB Cymru and published by the Welsh Ornithological Society.

‘Crimes against raptors in Wales 1990-2019’ summarises the plight of our birds of prey over the past three decades.

It shows that while the number of confirmed incidents of abuse fell between 2000 and 2009 compared with the previous decade, there was a marginal increase in the decade leading up to 2019.

According to the research, the rate of poisoning cases has increased in the last 30 years, with 52 cases confirmed in the last decade alone. The real total could be much higher, as the research is based on reported cases only.

Despite the fact laying poison baits in the open has been illegal since 1911, the review suggests it remains a problem for wildlife in the Welsh countryside. Birds of prey, wild mammals and even pets can fall victim to poisoning.

The paper also demonstrates that the probability of a persecution incident in 2010-19 was three times higher in areas where the driven shooting of game birds is available.

Another more positive finding in the report 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.

However, tougher penalties and a shift in public awareness and attitude has resulted in the detection of only a handful of cases in Wales in the past decade.

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.

“The relationship between raptor persecution and driven shooting was stronger than we expected, and we think this deserves further investigation to understand.”

Anne Brenchley, chair of the Welsh Ornithological Society, said: “Public awareness of raptor persecution has heightened in the last 30 years, often due to the concerted efforts of the RSPB.

"The Welsh Ornithological Society fully supports all attempts to reduce raptor persecution, particularly investigating the apparent link between persecution and game bird management.”

Rob Taylor, Welsh Government Wildlife and Rural Crime Coordinator, said: “Historically the human race has affected the population and even existence of many birds and habitats within Wales, for a variety of reasons.

"As a nation we have many iconic birds that proudly adorn our skies and we give credit to the work of the few who have gone that extra mile to maintain their essential conservation.

“The red kite and osprey are a prime example of a success story within Wales, although these can be still subject to unnecessary persecution even in 2021.

"We, the police and our key partner agencies, have a duty to prevent the further persecution of any bird within Wales and protect them and their habitats for future generations to come.”

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