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Launch of poaching initiative

18 January 2010

Number of reported incidents of poaching has increased dramatically in last 12 months.

Launch of fresh initiative by Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Community Safety, to counter 'blight on Scotland's countryside'

The number of incidents of poaching has increased dramatically in the last 12 months, but everyone can help in combating this criminal activity. That is the strong message from the launch of a fresh initiative today in Perthshire to curtail what is fast becoming a blight on Scotland's countryside.

Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Community Safety, launched the new initiative on behalf of the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Scotland, the alliance of agencies and organisations charged by the Scottish Government to tackle this type of criminal activity.

Launched today were a new poster and leaflet to encourage the public to report incidents or suspicion of poaching, and in particular deer poaching, hare coursing and salmon poaching, through Crimestoppers or their local Police, and to raise awareness of the scale of the problem across the wider Scottish public.

Statistics from the National Wildlife Crime Unit show that all three priorities covered by the initiative have increased dramatically over the last 12 months. Reported incidents of hare coursing across Scotland for calendar year 2009 totalled 148, an increase of 120 per cent on the 67 reported incidents in 2008. Likewise, deer poaching was up from 71 incidents reported in 2008 to 105 in 2009 (+ 47 per cent) and fish poaching up from 43 incidents in 2008 to 75 in 2009 (+75 per cent).

NWCU expects the 2009 figures to be even higher as the most recent data from certain areas is yet to be included.

The new initiative is being taken forward under the PAW Scotland umbrella by BASC Scotland, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS), the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB), Tayside Police, and the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA).

The Minister was also shown recent evidence of deer poaching in the Cally Woods, Dunkeld, part of Atholl Estates, where it is estimated from the deer heads and feet left behind by poachers that an additional 40 - 50 fallow deer are taken illegally each year over and above the Estate's annual management cull of some 150 animals.

Fergus Ewing, Minister for Community Safety, said:

"I am concerned at the large rise in poaching and coursing in Scotland over the past year. These crimes involve serious, organised criminals and have a significant economic impact on rural communities across Scotland.

"The Scottish Government are committed to helping reduce these crimes by working in partnership with people with the specialist knowledge, resources and skills to tackle them."

Douglas McAdam, Chief Executive, SRPBA, who is Priority Lead on the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime's Policing Poaching and Hare Coursing Group, said:

"We could possibly expect to see this increase in incidents of deer poaching because of financial conditions, and also more reporting of incidents because of heightened levels of awareness already from those working in the countryside or enjoying it for recreation, but what we are stressing today is that there has been an unprecedented hike in illegal activity and we need more action now. These are crimes being committed in our countryside, the illegal taking or killing of wildlife, and we all can help to provide intelligence, to report suspicious activity, and to give the Police the information they need to catch and prosecute the perpetrators who increasingly are members of organised gangs often involved in other criminal activity."

Deputy Chief Constable Iain MacLeod, Central Scotland Police, said:

"Whilst the significant rises in reported crimes are of concern, it is worth bearing in mind that similar increases have been seen in other crime types when public awareness and the profile of specific crimes are raised through initiatives such as this. Making people aware of the need to report suspicion or evidence of poaching is crucial to informing the overall picture of these types of crime across Scotland. Developing a more accurate picture of the level of the problem allows partner agencies to jointly develop effective strategies to tackle both individuals and groups involved in this type of criminality.

"Notwithstanding the increased levels of reporting, there is clear evidence of a significant increase in poaching and, in some cases, completely inhumane treatment of animals leading to intolerable suffering.
"It has also not escaped our attention that there are some isolated cases where game is being purchased from criminal groups without the necessary evidence and provenance that it has been taken legally, and in my view those involved in such activity are equally as guilty as the poachers themselves.

"I am encouraged by the increased levels of information arising from this initiative and believe it will continue to bring benefits in allowing us all to tackle poaching more effectively."

Members of the public who suspect poaching activity are urged to contact their local Police station or to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

For more information please read our poaching page.