SATELLITE tracking devices are to be fitted onto birds of prey and nesting site surveillance installed in the latest fight against wildlife crime.
‘Hawk-Eyes’, an advanced technology project, is being launched by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAW NI), alongside their ‘10 Years of Persecution’ Report.
The report reveals that from 2009-18, there were a total of 72 incidents of confirmed raptor persecution in Northern Ireland, resulting in the death or injury of 66 birds of prey and the destruction of two nesting sites.
Several incidents were in County Antrim.
The tracking technology means police can quickly get to a bird that has stopped moving to see whether it has been targeted.
DAERA Wildlife Officer Dr Jon Lees said buzzards and red kites are amongst the most common victims of persecution: “Sadly, a small proportion of our population still seem to think it’s ok to destroy these magnificent birds at the expense of the environment and the rest of the community.
“Raptors such as buzzards, red kites, peregrine falcons and Sparrowhawks, have been illegally targeted right across Northern Ireland to such an extent some areas are at risk of losing their natural top predators,” explained Dr Lees.
“The methods these criminals use, such as poisoned bait, are often highly dangerous, putting livestock, pets and people at risk. These offenders care little for people’s safety. We rely heavily on the vigilance of the public to report these crimes and any evidence to the police or Crimestoppers,” Dr Lees added.
The “Hawk-Eyes” project received funding of £8,262 from the Department of Justice Assets Recovery Community Scheme (ARCS).
The Project is managed through PAW NI, which brings together government Departments, PSNI and other enforcement agencies, environmental organisations, animal welfare groups and country sports associations with the common goal of combating wildlife crime through publicity, education and campaigning.
PAWNI Partner Dr Eimear Rooney from Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group said: “We are confident the satellite tracking devices, which will provide near real-time remote tracking of the birds to monitor their movements and survival, will effectively give us ‘eyes in the skies’, helping raise awareness of the vulnerability of these birds to crimes.
“Often crimes go undetected because they happen in remote areas, with these devices we can act quickly if the birds stop moving. We are also installing wildlife surveillance cameras near to nesting sites to remotely monitor bird behaviour and movements when adults and chicks are at their most vulnerable.”
Some of the birds’ tracking information will be publicly available on the project website at http://wildlifecrimeni-hawkeyes.com, which will allow people to help protect these special birds by reporting such crimes.
PAW NI encourages people across Northern Ireland to be vigilant. If anyone sees or knows of any wildlife crime, report it to the PSNI by calling 101 or, in an emergency, 999. Crime can be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
You can download the ‘10 Years of Persecution’ Report at http://bit.ly/2qvCMZx