Birds of prey under threat from banned pesticide poisonings

TWENTY-EIGHT birds of prey were found illegally poisoned in Scotland last year, many laced with a pesticide banned for a decade, a new report has shown.

Victims of pesticide abuse included a sea eagle, four golden eagles and 13 buzzards. Most were discovered in Tayside and the Highlands.

Tests revealed the presence of carbofuran, a pesticide that has been illegal since 2001, in the majority of the carcases.

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A Scottish Government report, Pesticide Poisonings of Animals in 2010, revealed 228 incidents of animal poisoning were reported in Scotland, of which 106 tested positive for the presence of pesticides. Thirty-two of these incidents were classified as “abuse”, of which 22 involved dead birds of prey. Some incidents involved more than one bird, meaning there were 28 raptor victims in total.

In 19 out of the 32 incidents of abuse, the banned pesticide carbofuran was present. The number poisoning incidents involving birds of prey remained the same as the previous year.

RSPB Scotland believes the incidents present just the tip of the iceberg, as only a minority of cases are likely to be discovered or reported. Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: “The 2010 report highlights the high proportion of pesticide abuse cases still involving our iconic bird of prey species.

“The impact of illegal poisoning on these and other bird of prey species remains a serious concern, undermining the recovery of their populations.”

Other victims of either accidental or deliberate poisonings during 2010 included a dog that got ill after eating sheep-dip and a piglet that escaped from its enclosure and died after eating rat poison.

In another incident, an unlabelled glass jar on a farm was found to contain cyanide – a potentially lethal poison, which is illegal.

Superintendent Alan Smailes, chairman of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, highlighted that the incidents were becoming more “geographically polarised”.

He warned: “As for those areas where poisoning is continuing to occur, it is becoming ever more apparent who and where you are and we will not hesitate to use all means at our disposal to stop you.”

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Environment minister Stewart Stevenson described the illegal poisonings as a “blight on our countryside”.

He said: “The number of birds of prey which continue to be victims of deliberate poisoning does remain a concern and we will continue to use the range of measures available to combat this.”

Luke Borwick, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Landowners are working hard in partnership with police and other organisations to help eradicate poisoning.”