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Birds of prey, wild mammals, livestock and pet dogs and cats were all found to be victims of accidental or deliberate poisonings as reflected in figures unveiled by Scotland's Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) today.
A report by the Government's Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) scientists outlines an increase in the number of cases investigated in 2010, some involving the incorrect storage and usage of approved pesticides, including:
A piglet which escaped from its enclosure and died after eating rodent baits left by the previous occupant of the farm
22 abuse incidents involved birds of prey including 13 buzzards, seven red kites and four golden eagles
Illness of a working dog following exposure to sheep-dip chemicals
An unlabelled glass jar found on a farm containing cyanide, an illegal and potentially lethal substance
The illegal use of carbofuran (insecticide) accounted for more than half of all 32 abuse incidents with nine different pesticides detected in the remaining incidents. Incidents of bird of prey poisonings remained high at 69 per cent of all abuse cases, as reflected in previous years' figures.
Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said:
"This report highlights the devastating impact that the irresponsible abuse of pesticides can have on our wildlife. Scotland's natural environment is one of our most valuable assets and it is essential that we protect it and ensure that pesticide use is regulated appropriately. SASA plays a vital role in monitoring these incidents and helping make our countryside a safer place for us all, whilst providing crucial evidence in the fight against wildlife crime.
"A variety of domestic animals have also fallen victim to both deliberate and accidental poisonings, including livestock and family pets such as dogs and cats. The number of birds of prey which continue to be victims of deliberate poisoning does remain a concern and we will continue to use the range of measures available to combat this.
"Whilst I welcome a slight reduction in the overall number of abuse incidents from 2009 into 2010, there is unfortunately no change in respect of cases involving raptors. However, early indications would seem to suggest that there is a reduction this year. I am delighted to see law enforcement, land management organisations and conservation bodies now working together to tackle the wide issues surrounding raptor persecution. We will continue to work with the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland to put a stop to these illegal activities which are a blight on our countryside."
Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, said:
"SASA's toxicology analysis is a vital part of the work in combating wildlife crime in Scotland. The 2010 report highlights the high proportion of pesticide abuse cases still involving our iconic bird of prey species. The impact of illegal poisoning on these and other bird of prey species remains a serious concern, undermining the recovery of their populations. We welcome the increased reporting by the public of potential illegal poisoning cases, and the steps being taken by Scottish landowning interests, who we are working alongside, to bear down on those who continue use poisons illegally and indiscriminately in our countryside."
Superintendent Alan Smailes, Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, said:
"I welcome the release of the statistics and the detail the report provides. Whilst there will always be different interpretations of statistics it is clear that the efforts PAW partners are making to eradicate this problem are having an effect and are the only way to make further progress. An interesting aspect of the report is that the data confirms existing suspicions that poisonings are becoming more geographically polarised. As for those areas where poisoning is continuing to occur, it is becoming ever more apparent who and where you are and we will not hesitate to use all means at our disposal to stop you."
Luke Borwick, Chairman of Scottish Land & Estates which represents 2,500 landowners, said:
"Landowners are working hard in partnership with police and other organisations to help eradicate poisoning. This requires a sustained approach over time and there is evidence these joint efforts are beginning to pay off. Early indications for the first half of 2011 show there has been a significant decrease in illegal poisoning incidents at a time when some species are increasing rapidly and now number tens of thousands, the highest overall for nearly a hundred years. This decrease is welcome, reflects serious partnership working in this area and needs to be sustained."