‘Abhorrent’ bird of prey deaths in Kilkenny and nationally spur new Wildlife Crime Unit

Kilkenny Kilkenny Kilkenny

Three common buzzards were injured or killed in county Kilkenny between 2007 and 2019 Picture: NPWS report

Peregrine falcons and buzzards were among the native Irish birds of prey injured or killed by poisoning, shooting or other ‘traumatic’ means in county Kilkenny in recent years.

These acts are described as ‘abhorrent’ by Minister of State Malcolm Noonan who has responded by announcing a new Wildlife Crime Unit.

Poisoning and ‘persecution’ is listed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) as the cause of those deaths in most cases, according to a new report from the NPWS. In some cases trapping is also suspected.

Three common buzzards were killed in the county during the timeline of the report study, 2007 to 2019. In the same time period two peregrine falcons were also killed.

The NPWS report shows that overall more than 300 native Irish birds of prey were injured or killed between 2007 and 2019 - leading the Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Kilkenny’s Malcolm Noonan, to announce the establishment of a new Wildlife Crime Unit.

Incidents have been recorded in every county in Ireland - with some counties recording much higher cases. Kilkenny has one of the lowest rates of raptor incidents cited in the report.
All regularly breeding native Irish raptor species suffered some form of poisoning, persecution or other direct, non-habitat related cause of injury or mortality.

Experts from the NPWS, the Veterinary Laboratory Service and State Laboratory co-operated on an investigative process known as the RAPTOR protocol. RAPTOR is an acronym for ‘Recording and Addressing Persecution and Threats to Our Raptors’. The RAPTOR protocol entails a significant amount of effort between the three Government Departments - from collecting and handling carcasses, injured birds and evidence; to x-rays, Post-Mortems examinations, DNA sampling, toxicological testing; data analysis, interpretation and reporting.

The report’s author and coordinator of RAPTOR between 2013 and 2019, Dr. Barry O’Donoghue said: “Birds of prey are magnificent creatures in their own right and speak to something deep within us about a wild Ireland. They are indicators of the health of our ecosystems and countryside, whether a Barn Owl hunting a hay meadow at night or a Hen Harrier gliding across a moorland. The help of the public has been central in bringing these incidents to light and for highlighting the support that our native birds of prey need.”

Minister of Noonan said: “These incidents, particularly the deliberate persecution of our native raptors are an abhorrence to us all and should be condemned.
“The intelligence gathered by those coordinating RAPTOR will serve very usefully to inform approaches to tackling these incidents, including by the new Wildlife Crime Unit that will be established within NPWS.”

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