In a recently published Irish Wildlife Manual, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) issued a review of the incidents impacting birds of prey between 2007-2019 in Ireland. Collating these incidents was a collaborative venture between the NPWS, the Veterinary Laboratory Service and State Laboratory and the approach is known as the RAPTOR (Recording and Addressing Persecution and Threats to Our Raptors) protocol. This protocol was set up with the aim of formally investigating bird of prey injury and mortality in Ireland and it entails various methods such as the collection/handling of carcasses/injured birds and evidence, X-rays, Post-Mortem examinations, DNA sampling, toxicological testing, data analysis and reporting.
Within the manual an overview of incidents from 2007 up to the 31 December 2019 is provided and investigations into the statistics, patterns and trends are outlined. This information provides a useful knowledge base for addressing issues going forward, whether by enforcement, education or planning. The results show that between 2007 and 2019, a total of 338 incidents were confirmed and recorded, comprising of 214 incidents involving poison, 58 incidents involving shooting, one trapping and one mutilation, in addition to 57 road collision incidents, six wind turbine strike incidents, three ‘traumatic death’ incidents, two disturbance incidents, two fence collision incidents and one powerline collision incident. Of the total 338 confirmed incidents, 294 involved birds of prey, with a total of 301 individual birds of prey impacted.
The results show that all regularly breeding native Irish raptor species have suffered some form of poisoning, persecution or other direct anthropogenic non-habitat related cause of injury or mortality. Most affected species included common buzzard, red kite, barn owl, peregrine falcon, white-tailed eagle, hen harrier, sparrowhawk, kestrel, long-eared owl, golden eagle, merlin and short-eared owl. It is highlighted in the report that the actual number of raptors impacted is likely to be much higher than recorded in the protocol database. Results of the protocol prove that anthropogenic threats to raptor individuals in Ireland are widespread, with incidents occurring in every county. It was concluded that incidents involving illegal acts or misuse of poisons/poisoning incidents accounted for 71.5% of cases, while shootings accounted for 28% and trapping/mutilation another0.5%. It was also made clear that there are notable blackspots for certain incidents throughout the country and particularly high-risk periods, where the number of individuals impacted increase, are evident.
Overall, the RAPTOR protocol and its associated database have benefitted greatly in assisting with individual wildlife crime investigations. Continuing to record and review these incidents will provide a stronger background of information to target illegal activity through enforcement and education which will in turn, combat human-related raptor injury and mortality. Furthermore, the information garnered from recording and analysing the incidents of disturbance, road, turbine or fence collisions can help inform forward planning on such matters.