RAPTOR Reports Published for 2012, 2013 & 2014

Date Released: Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bird of Prey poisoning and persecution in Ireland is monitored under the R.A.P.T.O.R. (Recording and Addressing Persecution and Threats to Our Raptors) protocol. This protocol is managed by The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, the Regional Veterinary Labs of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the State Lab of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Various other governmental and non-governmental organisations including An Garda Síochána, BirdWatch Ireland and the Golden Eagle Trust contribute to the discovery and investigation of cases as well as the gathering of intelligence to help combat threats and pressures to Ireland’s native birds of prey.

The RAPTOR protocol formally came into place in 2011. Annual Reports from 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 can be found here. A number of other records had been kept since before 2011. A total of 133 such incidents have been verified and recorded in Ireland between October 2007 and December 2014. Last year, 2014 saw the highest number of raptor persecution cases to date, while further incidents continue in 2015. The NPWS are pursuing a number of investigations, with a number of cases due in court. A number of other anecdotal and attempted cases have been recorded.

These native birds of prey are part of our natural heritage, key indicators of the health of our ecosystems and important assets in attracting tourists to come and stay in Ireland.

The birds of prey recorded to have fallen foul to poisoning and persecution since 2007 include Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Sea Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Hen Harrier, Barn Owl and Short-eared Owl. Large numbers (>100) of other birds such as crows and pigeons were also found to have been poisoned.

While the protocol and report are primarily concerned with Birds of Prey, other wildlife poisoning incidents were also picked up on including the finding of bait (e.g. an uncooked chicken found by school children on a mountain walk) and the poisoning of an Otter. The actual number of birds affected is much higher, given the fact that poisoning and persecution incidents often never come to light.

The National Parks & Wildlife Database of poison/persecution incidents enables an appraisal of black spots, associated land-use types, methods of persecution, motives behind the persecution and the times of year at which such incidents peak. A more informed approach to combating poisoning and persecution through education and law enforcement can then follow.

The report is the result of cooperation between the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine’s Regional Veterinary Laboratories and the State Laboratory, and also involves An Garda Síochána, the Golden Eagle Trust and BirdWatch Ireland.  The report notes that the use of tracking devices on birds has enabled dead birds to be found, but this also means that the true levels of mortality are likely to be significantly higher.

The use of poison has been greatly restricted under EU law in recent years. Direct poisoning and/or use of poison meat baits is illegal. Such incidents often involve the lethal substances Carbofuran, Nitroxynil and Alphachloralose. While rodenticides are legal to use, birds of prey accumulate these compounds when eating rats or mice that have been poisoned. The Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use has recently been set up with funding from rodenticide industry. This campaign aims to promote best practice so that rat poison in particular should not get into the wildlife food chain where it harms owls, kites and other birds of prey.