News

NPWS appeals for assistance in relation to unlawful killing of birds

Date Released: Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is appealing for public assistance to report any suspected poisoning or other unlawful killing of birds to the NPWS or An Garda Síochána.

This message follows an incident in West Cork where a number of protected buzzards were found dead due to the banned insecticide Carbofuran.

Know the law

Under the Wildlife Acts and the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 all bird species are protected and animals such as badgers, deer, otters, bats and hares are also protected.

Buzzards are a protected species and deliberate poisoning is an offence under the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) (Restriction on Use of Poison Baits) Regulations 2010 and Section 34 of the Wildlife Acts.

Why Carbofuran is banned

Approval for the use of Carbofuran products (which had been used as a crop dressing) was withdrawn in all of the European Union in 2007 and revoked in Ireland on 12/12/2007. This was followed by a “sell out and use up” period of 18 months, rendering Carbofuron banned from use from June 2009. After that date, Carbofuron products were classified as hazardous waste. Possession of hazardous waste for more than six months is unauthorised and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the regulating authority.

The use of Carbofuran products in agriculture is banned largely because the chemical had been shown worldwide to be toxic to much wildlife, but particularly to birds. While it is no longer legally available anywhere in Europe, it is known to be illegally procured and used by a minority of people who persecute wildlife, particularly birds of prey.

In a case taken by NPWS in 2016 Dundalk District Court ordered an individual to make a contribution to a conservation body for using Carbofuran in the poisoning of a grey heron in Co Louth.  

Buzzard incident in Co Cork

Following a report from a concerned landowner in West Cork in early January, NPWS field staff collected 12 dead buzzards which the landowner had come across in one of his fields.

Subsequent searches of the general area by the NPWS located 11 further dead buzzards. All of the tests on the buzzards, carried out by the Regional Veterinary Laboratory in Cork, confirmed that the cause of death was Carbofuran.

NPWS Regional staff launched an intensive investigation and the Gardaí at Bandon Station were also alerted. Subsequent searches of the general area did not result in any further findings of dead buzzards. While the investigation is still ongoing, NPWS’s view is that, given all of the information and evidence, this can only have been a case of deliberate poisoning of wildlife. The NPWS believes that this incident was not related to any agricultural practices in the area.

Buzzards became extinct in Ireland the late 19th century. Having re-established themselves in Northern Ireland in the 1930s, they have steadily colonised many counties in Ireland and are a welcome addition to Ireland’s avian biodiversity.

Poisoning incidents impede this recolonisation and are condemned not only by the Minister, NPWS and conservationists but by the general public that enjoy Ireland’s wildlife, including at a time when the awareness and appreciation of the value of our biodiversity is on the increase. The NPWS is very grateful to the landowner for alerting us to this very serious incident and the investigation continues.

Play your part

Any suspected breaches of the Wildlife legislation, including suspected poisoning or other unlawful killing of birds, should be reported to the NPWS head office or local offices or via email to natureconservation@chg.gov.ie or to An Garda Síochána.

In the interests of your own health and safety, avoid handling dead birds. If you must do so, please adhere to normal good practice, e.g. wear gloves, wash your hands.