RAPTOR protocol

The RAPTOR (Recording and Addressing Persecution and Threats to Our Raptors) protocol is a collaborative approach between the NPWS, Regional Veterinary Laboratories, and the State Laboratory, to systematically determine the extent to which anthropogenic non-habitat related impacts (for example poisoning, persecution, disturbance, collisions, etc.) are threats to Ireland's native birds of prey. It involves the following research institutions:

  • Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – National Parks and Wildlife Service
  • Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – Regional Veterinary Laboratories
  • Department of Public Expenditure and Reform – State Laboratory

Project investigators are Dr. Barry O'Donoghue, Micheál Casey, and Edward Malone. The project is undertaken at sites across Ireland.

Project Background

Ireland’s 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. High profile raptor poisoning or persecution incidents have been documented in the media. Examples include shootings of Hen Harriers in Kerry and a White-tailed Eagle in Tipperary, attempted poisoning of Peregrine Falcons in Dublin, and numerous poisonings of Red Kites in Wicklow. There are, however, many other cases that were not highlighted in the media.

Working together, the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), Regional Veterinary Laboratories, and the State Laboratory introduced a formal protocol for investigating bird of prey deaths in 2011. This is known as the RAPTOR (Recording and Addressing Persecution and Threats to Our Raptors) protocol.

The RAPTOR protocol entails a significant amount of effort between three Government departments in a range of activities including:

  • Collecting and handling carcasses, injured birds, and evidence
  • X-rays
  • Post-mortem examinations
  • Toxicological testing and follow-up investigations
  • Data analysis, interpretation and reporting 

NPWS maintains a database of incidents and the three departments undertake to publish an annual report. The reports published to date can be accessed by clicking on the links below:

2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016

Aims and objectives

The main aims and objectives of the RAPTOR protocol include:

  • Monitoring anthropogenic non-habitat related impacts on birds of prey, including but not limited to poisoning and persecution
  • Collection of evidence to support prosecutions for illegal persecution or use of poisoned meat baits
  • Monitoring the incidence of anthropogenic non-habitat related impacts on other vulnerable species (e.g. Raven)
  • Monitoring the incidence of poisoning in species vulnerable to secondary poisoning by rodenticides (in particular Common Buzzard, Barn Owl, Kestrel, Red Kite and Long-eared Owl)
  • Maintaining a database of incidents to provide intelligence to counteract anthropogenic non-habitat related impacts on birds of prey in Ireland
  • Providing evidence of the causes of death of other wildlife species where poison is strongly suspected
  • Quantifying the use of specific poisons. 

Projected benefits

The projected beneifts of the RAPTOR protocol are to provide intelligence for an informed approach to address the impact of anthropogenic issues on our native birds of prey through education, law enforcement and forward planning.

Picture of raptor

The buzzard shown in this photograph, by Dan Danaher of Kildare Animal Foundation, was shot in November 2016 but successfully returned to the wild in October 2017.