MORE police officers are being trained to identify wildlife crime as the number of reported incidents continues to increase.
Nearly 250 wildlife crimes were recorded between April 2014 and last month, including bird poisoning, badger baiting and trading in endangered species.
Police Scotland has launched a new awareness campaign to tackle wildlife crime in Scottish cities, towns and rural areas.
A network of wildlife officers investigate incidents but more than 100 additional officers have now had wildlife crime training, with further courses to be held, to “substantially increase the number of officers with specialist knowledge”.
The public are also being urged to report any suspicious activity involving wildlife with a series of online and newspaper adverts aimed at raising awareness.
Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: “Scotland’s natural heritage is under threat from criminals preying on the country’s iconic wildlife, either for sport or many cases for their own gain.
“Wildlife crime doesn’t just happen in the countryside, it also occurs in urban areas.
“We have evidence of badger baiting metres from housing estates, deer being poached from city parks and bat roosts being destroyed. Wildlife crime occurs across all of our communities.
“Tackling wildlife crime is not just about law enforcement, it is about working with partners and the public to raise awareness, and to prevent it happening.
“By the time we are involved it is too late, that creature is lost and our landscape is poorer for the loss.
“We are committed to investigating wildlife crime. Our detection rate is increasing but investigations into wildlife crime can be difficult and prolonged, and the areas covered can be vast and remote.
“Our new campaign calls on the public to help us put an end to wildlife crime, to keep their eyes open and reporting suspicious activity and, by working together, protecting Scotland’s wildlife heritage.”
Environment minister Dr Aileen McLeod said: “In Scotland we have long recognised the value of our wildlife and the importance of protecting it.
“Today sees the launch of this important campaign by Police Scotland which will play a key role in raising awareness about wildlife crime and what people should do if they encounter it.”
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