Experts are calling on the government to treat wildlife crime “with the seriousness it deserves”, after a report showed that species’ persecution rose sharply during the pandemic – but confidence fell.
Crimes including badger-biting and poisoning, trapping and raptor shooting increased last year while restrictions were in place.
And according to a Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) study, there was a “shocking” 220 percent increase in claims of developers interfering with badger sets.
Link, a coalition of dozens of nature organizations, warned that crime was on the rise in rural areas, fueled by lockdowns that allowed criminals to go unchecked.
The organisation’s fifth annual report, covering England and Wales, shows that many types of crime were at their highest or second highest levels last year, detailing how bats, buzzards, rabbits, kestrels, seals, dolphins and Bluebell was all targeted.
But the document also warns that the figures represent only “the tip of the iceberg” because the Home Office has no specific crime code for wildlife crimes, so police cannot assess crime levels.
Convicts for fishing and hunting offenses fell by at least half during the pandemic, their worst rate ever in a five-year record.
Experts said the low levels of prosecution and conviction were partly due to less investigation.
A WCL spokesperson said, “Therefore offenses never reach the stage of prosecution or fail in prosecution due to lack of expertise or bringing the prosecutor to the last minute in the matter.” Granthshala,
“Recognition of the impact of this lack of expertise is reflected in the fact that new CPS training on the Hunting Act is being rolled out to prosecutors beginning next month.”
Reported crimes against badgers increased by 36 percent last year, according to the data, with potential fishing offenses also increasing by more than a third (35 percent).
The number of birds of prey killed rose to an all-time high, rising from 54 to 104, although raptor harassment remains a priority for the National Wildlife Crime Unit. Raptors are targeted because shooters see them as a threat to game-bird numbers.
And as more people vacationed in the UK, there were reports of tourists physically approaching seals and dolphins in Cornwall.
Punishment for the offense of fishing fell to 679 in 2019 from 2,037.
Martin Sims, President of WCL’s Wildlife Crime Group, said: “Wildlife crime should be a concern to everyone – it causes pain, harm and harm to much-loved wildlife and promotes widespread criminality against people and property. Is.
“Despite this, police still do not collect centralized data on these serious crimes, leaving an incomplete picture with donations, which may be just a drop in the ocean of wildlife crimes.
“It is high time that the government takes steps to take wildlife crime seriously which it deserves. Notifying major crimes will help police forces better target resources and track repeat offenders.
“Improved police and prosecutor training and resources will help raise the pathetic 32 percent conviction rate for victims of poaching alone.”
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has made recommendations for the government to consider.
Badger Trust’s acting CEO Don Worley said some developers are seeing habitat protection as “an inconvenience to quietly bulldoze rather than a legal requirement for conservation”.
WCL says police record most wildlife crimes as “miscellaneous,” so they are invisible in the record, and the number of crimes is likely to be far greater than the charity’s data.
A government spokesman said: “We recognize the importance of tackling wildlife crime, which is why we directly fund the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which provides intelligence and support to the police forces protecting our valuable wildlife. Huh.
“We are clear that those found guilty of causing harm to animals must be subject to the full force of the law. Significant sanctions are available for judges to hand over those convicted of wildlife crimes.”
A spokesman for the CPS said: “We are working closely with the police and other supporting agencies to bring about better performance in the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes,” he said.
“The pandemic reminded us of the importance of the natural environment and wildlife for reasons of economic, health and well-being, so the CPS stands ready to prosecute those who seek to harm it.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /