What a tragedy in County Down in Northern Ireland reported in the media just the other day. A female red kite was found dead on a nest, still covering her eggs, while the male of the pair was found unwell close by and died soon after being discovered.
The incident took place on 24 April, with the bodies being passed to the Police Service of Northern Ireland for toxicology examinations. The results showed that both birds had ingested a pesticide that has been banned EU-wide since 2001: carbofuran.
The RSPB are to be commended for trying to save the three eggs by fostering them on to other red kite nests. Two fostered to one nest failed, while the result in the second nest is uncertain, though the nest did eventually contain one chick.
Emma Meredith, the long-time wildlife liaison officer for PSNI, made a really important point in her press appeal for information, stating, “Carbofuran (is) an incredibly dangerous substance and one which can kill birds of prey but also a child, family pet or any adult coming into contact with it.”
Over the years birds of prey and pets have been frequent victims of pesticides set out illegally. We need look no further than a case currently being investigated by Police Scotland in the Aberfeldy area of Perthshire where two buzzards and three working dogs were poisoned. If the use of this (and other) deadly pesticides continues there is a real risk of a human death resulting. A very small amount of these carbamate-based pesticides being ingested could be fatal. Other pesticides such as strychnine and mevinphos are even more deadly and all result in the most painful and horrendous death for the victim.
It seems that we continue to take three steps forward and two back in dealing with raptor persecution. Every time the situation looks as if it is improving we are hit with the report of yet another criminal act. The consolation is that at least in Scotland there is some hope on the horizon of a means of dealing effectively with criminals who commit crimes against raptors in particular (even though the process of reaching a conclusion is painfully slow).
In the remainder of the UK the Government thinks – no, pretends – the present laws and their means of being enforced are perfectly adequate.