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Operation Easter

PAW Scotland (the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime) are appealing to the public to help ensure breeding birds are left in peace this Easter.

The arrival of the new bird breeding season sees the launch of Operation Easter for 2012 - an annual, national response to deter egg-thieves from targeting wild birds’ nests.

Chair of PAW Scotland, Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson, said: ”While our member organisations are making significant headway tackling egg thieves, they can’t do it alone and we depend on everyone who’s out and about in the countryside to be vigilant and report suspicious activity to the police.”

Operation Easter began in Scotland and is now a UK success story. It was started by Tayside Police in 1997. The police, National Wildlife Crime Unit and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have been working together to share intelligence and ensure effective enforcement action against the egg thieves. This has resulted in several seizures of egg collections over recent years across the UK. The concerted effort has seen the number of active egg thieves reduced to an all-time low.

Charles Everitt, Scottish Investigative Support Officer at the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), warns one of the biggest dangers now is complacency. He said: ”We can’t afford to relax at this stage. Over Easter and in the coming weeks Scotland’s Wildlife Crime officers will be out in force, targeting anyone stealing from Scotland’s wild bird nests.”

The gradual tightening of legislation has provided a real deterrent to potential egg thieves while other crime prevention measures, such as CCTV installations, are proving effective. The best known example is the round the clock surveillance of white-tailed sea eagles on Mull.

And there have been innovative uses of modern legislation – such as the ASBO served on an egg-collector from London this year. The man had targeted species in Scotland including golden eagle and osprey, and is now banned from entering the country during the nesting season for 10 years. 

Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland, said: “Operation Easter has had tremendous success, over several years, in both detecting and deterring the activities of egg collectors in Scotland and further afield. However, we cannot afford to be complacent, and this out-dated pastime continues to pose a threat to some of our rarest species such as Slavonian grebe and golden eagle. RSPB Scotland is very happy to support this operation.”

Anyone who witnesses or suspects that people are involved egg theft or any other rural crime should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or the local police.

Notes to Editors:

The Protection of Birds Act 1954 made the first in-roads to safeguarding birds’ eggs. This was strengthened by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 at which point a number of egg-thieves decided to give their hobby up.  In 2003, the legislation was amended further to provide courts with the option of imprisonment for anyone caught taking wild bird eggs. This caused some egg thieves to try their luck abroad.

PAW Scotland is the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime in Scotland. PAW Scotland partners include a wide range of bodies committed to tackling wildlife crime including conservation, land management, shooting and law enforcement organisations.

PAW Scotland defines wildlife crime as any unlawful act or omission, which affects any wild creature, plant or habitat, in Scotland.  More information at www.PAW.Scotland.gov.uk

For further information please contact:

  • Charles Everitt, NWCU on 07917 599 690
  • Louise Smith, National Media & Communications Officer, RSPB Scotland on 0131 317 4136 / 07540121457

       Julie MacBeath – 0131 244 5193