I see that a new group, Birders against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) has been formed by five bird watchers. The aim is to encourage the thousands of men and women who go bird watching to be aware of wildlife crime, to make field notes of it if possible, and to report it.
Quoting from their website at http://www.talking-naturally.co.uk/birders-against-wildlife-crime/ : BAWC is a simple idea – and, some will say, not actually a new one. Wildlife charities (my words: and even more so, the police and the NWCU) have been asking the public to keep an eye out for wildlife crime for a long time.
We’re approaching things slightly differently though.
First off we’re birders talking to birders. And we understand that part of the problem in tackling wildlife crime is that the laws surrounding wildlife crime are very complex: many of us don’t know what exactly is or isn’t a wildlife crime, what we should do and what details we need to record when we see a crime, and who we’re supposed to report that crime to.
So we’re putting together a website and campaign materials that will focus on what we’ve dubbed ‘The Three Rs’:
Whether or not the idea is new it is a sound concept. Bird watchers, with their field skills, cameras and binoculars are as well placed as anyone to recognise wildlife crime. They are also likely to witness the whole range of wildlife crime, from raptor persecution, reckless disturbance of nesting Schedule 1 birds, hare coursing, illegal snaring or trapping, finch trapping, badger digging, poaching, taking freshwater pearl mussels and wild bird egg thieving. I have blogged about reporting wildlife crime before – see https://wildlifedetective.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/reporting-wildlife-crime/ but some warnings are worth repeating. Some wildlife criminals are likely to be violent and should not be approached. It is important to notify the police and have them attend as soon as possible. Next, do not interfere with evidence, the exception being if it is likely to disappear before the police arrive. Note and record but do not trample around in what might be a wildlife crime scene. Lastly if a suspected poisoned bait or victim is found do not touch it as some are likely to be exceedingly dangerous, even fatal, to humans as well as to wildlife.
I’ll watch with interest as this worthwhile initiative develops. Many more eyes and ears focussed on the same objective makes it much more likely that wildlife criminals will have their day in court.