Although poaching and hare coursing are common problems in many UK counties, and criminals can make as much as £12,000 from the sale of a single carp, many members of the public are not aware of the wildlife crimes happening around them or that they can report it to the authorities
Often thought of as an overseas problem, there are in fact devastating impacts from crimes against domestic UK wildlife including badger baiting, bat persecution, poisoning a bird of prey, poaching fresh water mussels or stealing eggs.
From 18th to 25th October, World Animal Protection and Crimestoppers are joining forces to raise awareness with the public for how they can spot wildlife crime and who to report it to. Twenty police forces from around the country will also be promoting the week within their own constabulary areas, letting residents know what they are doing to crack down on wildlife crime locally.
It is not just the countryside that is affected as wildlife crime is both very much both an urban and rural problem. The organisations involved will be equipping the public with a guide on how to spot crimes that are happening, or may have happened in their area.
Head of UK Campaigns at World Animal Protection, Alyx Elliott, said: “We know the public adore the wonderful British species like badgers, bats, hares and birds of prey, but they may not be aware of the devastating crime that affects them. This week will empower people to recognise the signs of certain crimes like badger set disturbance, raptor poisoning, hare coursing, or poaching so they can report it to the police, or Crimestoppers and help protect our beloved wildlife.”
Recent successful prosecutions by the Metropolitan Wildlife Crime Unit in recent months have included cases against a jeweller selling tiger claw necklaces, a contractor for destroying the habitat of roosting bats and a man in Croydon for killing a deer in his own home.
DC Louise Morris, of the Metropolitan Police Service’s Wildlife Crime Unit, said: "London plays host to an abundance of wildlife, some of which, sadly, is subject to cruelty, disturbance and other human threat. The Wildlife Crime Unit aims to reduce wildlife crime and prosecute those responsible for it.
“The public’s assistance is essential as, from their initial observations and reports, we can uncover an array of wildlife crimes taking place. Combating wildlife crime needs effort from everyone and I urge anyone with information about it – however insignificant they feel it is – to call the police on 101.”
Celebrity supporters of World Animal Protection have backed the awareness week, encouraging members of the public to familiarise themselves with the signs of wildlife crime and report any evidence to Crimestoppers anonymously, or to the Police on 999.
“Morally, nothing separates someone who kills a swan by throwing rocks in the UK, from someone shooting a wild animal for fun on the plains of Southern Africa,” said Stephen Fry. “The world has woken up to the seriousness of wildlife crime. Join me and World Animal Protection and use your voice to speak out and put an end to this criminality against animals.”
“Wildlife crime isn’t just something that happens in other countries, it doesn’t just affect exotic creatures like rhino, elephants and pangolin, it’s happening right here in the UK as well,” added Michaela Strachan. “Beautiful British creatures like hares, bats and badgers need you to give them a voice and stop this cruelty in its tracks. Find out more this Wildlife Crime Awareness Week.”
Deborah Meaden said: “I am supporting Wildlife Crime Awareness Week as I want to urge the British public to consciously watch out for signs of crime such as poaching, baiting and trapping across the country, and if you see something suspicious – report it. No matter whether you live in a city or the countryside, get involved and use this week to find out what you can do to help tackle wildlife crime.”
Ann Scott, Crimestoppers Campaigns Manager, said: “As an independent charity which takes information from the public on crime anonymously Crimestoppers gives the public a voice. Our wildlife doesn’t have a voice, but through you they can. Crimestoppers never ask for your name, we don’t take any personal details, we can’t trace your calls, we don’t record our calls and those giving information don’t have to go on to give a statement to police or go to court. It is quick, safe and easy. You may think that your information is insignificant, but it could be that last bit of the jigsaw which police need to uncover a serious crime. Help us stop wildlife crime. Help World Animal Protection protect our wildlife.”
If there is a wildlife crime in progress call 999 or for a non-emergency call 101
If you want to give information regarding a crime anonymously, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111