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Wildlife crimes going unpunished without proper reporting

26 November 2017

Crimes against wildlife are going unpunished, as crime figures aren’t properly recorded and assessed, warns a wildlife coalition as it launches a new report [1] today: ‘The Recording of Wildlife Crime in England and Wales’. The report is being launched at the National Wildlife Crime Enforcers Annual Conference in Leamington Spa.

Wildlife and Countryside Link [3] and Wales Environment Link [4] are major coalitions of wildlife and environment NGOs. The coalitions have commissioned new research among key stakeholders revealing frustration with the current system and overwhelming support for wildlife crime to be made recordable. The research also collates and reports on data collected by NGOs on various types of wildlife crime, which provides an idea of the scale and nature of offences.Wildlife crime [2] is a significant threat to conservation, animal welfare and the wider environment. However, unlike in Scotland, most wildlife crimes in England and Wales are currently recorded as ‘miscellaneous’ offences and they are therefore invisible crimes in police records. Enforcement officers are working hard to tackle this area of crime, but they are hindered by the lack of a proper recording and reporting process.

The research shows that there were more than 4,000 wildlife crime offences between 2010 and 2015. However this figure vastly underestimates the scale of the problem as details of many types of offences are not collected by NGOs [5], and they use different methods to collect the data.

Bob Elliot, Head of Investigations at RSPB, said: ‘This report continues to highlight that in England and Wales we still have a major issue with wildlife crime. This crime has serious consequences for the populations of species, such as the hen harrier whose population is at a very low level in England. An effective method of recording wildlife crime could provide a clearer picture of crimes against our treasured wildlife.’

YearBadger PersecutionBat PersecutionRaptor PersecutionPesticidesIllegal Trade (Import/Export)Total Incidents
2010-11711996332
201184813891691146
201235913410265660
2013698121121791019
20144041599445702
2015465133904759 incidents 2010 - 2015794
2016625-81--
Total 2010 - 20154653

Dr Elaine King, Director of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: ‘'Wildlife crime officers do a great job, but they are being forced to fight wildlife crime with one hand tied behind their backs. The lack of proper recording, reporting and analysis of wildlife crime figures hampers the setting of priorities and allocation of resources. Animals are paying the price with their lives and criminals are going unpunished. We want to urgently discuss these findings with ministers and get firm commitments that wildlife crimes will be properly recorded and assessed.’

Mark Jones, Associate Director at the Born Free Foundation, said: ‘The UK has a well-earned reputation for championing action on wildlife crime internationally and will host the 2018 international conference on illegal wildlife trade. If we are to retain this reputation, we must apply the same commitment to combating wildlife crime here at home. While the level of crime isn’t being properly assessed, effective prioritisation of enforcement efforts and associated resources are being severely hampered. ’

As part of the research for this report, the views of law enforcement and Government representatives, environment and wildlife organisations and academics were sought on these issues [6]. This research showed that:

  • 87% of stakeholders believe that all wildlife crime should be recorded
  • Experts said that that the current practice of recording wildlife crime under a ‘miscellaneous’ crime category was ‘of no use at all’
  • These stakeholders, including police officers, said that recording by specific wildlife crime codes would cause very little extra administrative burden.

Most wildlife crime data is not collated through police forces or the Home Office and is not reported upon, resulting in a lack of prioritisation of resources to tackle wildlife crime. Additionally, whilst some offences are recordable, such as the import/export of illegal wildlife products, there is no central collation of convictions, or up-to-date guidance for the sentencing of those found guilty.

Wildlife and Countryside Link and Wales Environment Link are urging the Home Office to make all wildlife crimes recordable in England and Wales, with specific wildlife crime police recording codes; and to produce a comprehensive annual wildlife crime report - detailing trends, identifying priorities, and directing funding and resources accordingly.

There is a clear case for more effective recording of, and reporting on, wildlife crime in England and Wales. These actions are essential to help safeguard wildlife and nature and to enable more effective enforcement. The coalition is seeking meetings with Home Office ministers and officials to discuss the report’s findings.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  1. The report ‘The Recording of Wildlife Crime in England and Wales’ was compiled by Justin Gosling. It is supported by the following Wildlife and Countryside Link and Wales Environment Link member organisations: Amphibian & Reptile Conservation; bat Conservation Trust; Badger Trust; Born Free Foundation; Buglife; Butterfly Conservation; Environmental Investigation Agency; Humane Society International/UK; International Fund for Animal Welfare; Institute of Fisheries Management; Plantlife; RSPB; RSPCA; The Wildlife Trusts; Wildlife Trusts of Wales; World Animal Protection; Whale and Dolphin Conservation; Woodland Trust; WWF; Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust; Youth Hostel Association.
  2. See page 7-8 of the report for detail of the different types of Wildlife crimes.
  3. Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) is a unique coalition of charitable organisations concerned with the conservation and protection of wildlife and the countryside. Our members practise and advocate environmentally sensitive land management, and encourage respect for and enjoyment of natural landscapes and features, the historic and marine environment and biodiversity. Taken together our members have the support of over 8 million people in the UK and manage over 750,000 hectares of land. See www.wcl.org.uk
  4. Wales Environment Link (WEL) is a network of environmental, countryside and heritage non-governmental organisations with an all-Wales remit. Our vision is a healthy, sustainably managed environment and countryside with safeguarded heritage in which the people of Wales and future generations can prosper. See www.waleslink.org
  5. Crime data is not centrally collected on many types of wildlife crime including: hunting offences; poaching; and hare-coursing.
  6. This research was limited in size but with experts in the field from across a range of organisations. Feedback from approximately 70 informed stakeholders was used to inform the research.