The RSPB Investigations Team has recently welcomed a new Raptor Officer to their ranks.
Niall Owen has taken up the post of RSPB Cymru Raptor Officer in a new Welsh government-funded role, in a clear joint statement of intent in the fight against raptor persecution in Wales.
Niall is a keen wildlife photographer with a wealth of knowledge and passion for birds of prey, and has already began undertaking fieldwork. As well as supporting the police with investigations into crimes involving birds of prey, he will be satellite tagging hen harriers and monitoring their nests over the summer. Niall said: “My passion for birds, and particularly raptors, stemmed from a trip to South Africa: the finite details separating species and the ferocity of birds of prey gripped me. I’m delighted to become part of a team that is incredibly dedicated, and I revel in the opportunity to join the front line of conservation, tackling raptor persecution in the hope of putting it to a stop.
"Joining the team during lockdown has only emphasised the problem we face in tackling such barbarity, with no less than 56 potential offences, but I’m determined to make a difference. The prospect of being able to monitor hen harriers with the view to satellite tagging youngsters and subsequently following their movements is a dream come true for me, as is being out in the field, sharing the landscape with these most magnificent birds, and contributing to real-world, hands on scientific research.”
The appointment, part-funded by the Welsh Government, is a pro-active step in protecting the glorious birds of prey that grace Wales’ skies. Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths, said: “As species champion for raptors in Wales, I condemn any continued persecution of our great birds of prey – these acts of violence are totally unacceptable.
“I am pleased we have been able to partly fund the RSPB’s new raptor officer. Niall, along with other colleagues within the RSPB, Police Rural Crime Teams, Welsh Government Wildlife Team and Natural Resources Wales, will play a key role in ensuring raptor persecution is dealt with effectively in Wales.
“My message to the public is clear, please remain vigilant and report any crimes to the police. Together we can put an end to these senseless incidents.” The introduction of a new Raptor Officer has been welcomed by all four police forces across Wales. Rob Taylor, North Wales Police Rural Crime Team manager said: “The police welcome the appointment of a new RSPB Raptor Officer in Wales and we hope he will be able to continue to work closely with and enhance the already professional relationship that exists here today, for the protection of our birds.
“Offences against birds are totally unacceptable, whether it be the persecution of raptors, destruction of habitats or the theft of their eggs and we will continue to take robust action against those who seek to flout the law. We will also continue to work closely with our partnership agencies such as the Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales and RSPB Cymru to put these types of offences firmly into the history books here in Wales”
The lockdown period has seen people engaging with nature. Yet while most have been indoors over this time, killings of birds of prey - which have caught both the public’s attention and dismay in the past months – have continued.
Patrick Lindley, NRW’s Lead Advisor on Ornithology said: “Birds of prey are a vital part of our biodiversity, of our landscape, icons of our cultural heritage and key to boosting local economies by attracting visitors to Wales.
“We’re committed to working with our partners to stamp out wildlife crime in Wales. We hope that the appointment of Niall Owen will build on the valuable work land management, conservation and shooting organisations are already doing to help protect iconic birds of prey. But we also hope that it spreads the message that we will take stiff action to stop wildlife crime whenever possible.”
All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.
Many of these crimes have taken place in close-knit communities – and therefore it is important to stress that these crimes can be reported anonymously to the police or raptor crime hotline.
The RSPB’s Investigations team has also been bolstered by the addition of two new staff members in Scotland.
Mark Thomas, RSPB Head of Investigations UK, said: “We are delighted with the appointment of our three new staff members, whose enthusiasm, new ideas and wealth of experience will help us considerably in our mission to end the illegal killing of birds of prey across the UK.”
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