Birders Against Wildlife Crime

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Birders Against Wildlife Crime


william-beard-460_1205669cLast night Channel 4 News broadcast a short and extremely welcome report on the persecution of raptors on Scottish grouse moors, triggered by the rather unfortunate timing that saw Prince William (right) debate poaching and wildlife crime at a conference in London the day after shooting animals ‘legally’ in Spain.

William of course famously enjoys a day out shooting Red Grouse on the very moors that have unnaturally high levels of ‘prey’ and unnaturally low levels of predators like Golden Eagles and Hen Harriers. It’s common knowledge that gamekeepers are involved in this imbalance (a fact smugly batted away (yet again) by Alex Hogg, chair of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association in the same report, despite a list of prosecutions that prove otherwise).

As contemptible as predator persecution on grouse moors is, it’s not just raptors that are being targeted across the UK, of course, and it’s not just ‘a few rogue’ gamekeepers breaking the law.

All across the UK our wildlife is being shot, poisoned, trapped, and traded.

The difficulty, though, is PROVING it.

 

 

Changing the odds

One thing that was missing from the report on Channel 4 News was thoughts on how the balance might be tipped back in favour of our wildlife.

That’s not a criticism. It was a short piece sandwiched between images of flooded high streets and farmland, but it’s widely acknowledged that wildlife criminals (professional and amateur) think that they can operate with little chance of being caught – let alone being prosecuted. Courts rightly need substantive proof that a crime has even occurred. Too few police officers are allocated to fight wildlife crime, and charity investigation officers cover huge areas using limited resources.

We need to change the odds.

And in fact several of us – life-long birders and active wildlife campaigners – have been thinking about one way we can do just that…

 

 

Birders Against Wildlife Crime

BAWC Main Logo RGB vertical x250We’re setting up a campaign group we’ve called Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC).

The idea is very simple.

  • Every day thousands of birders (and that includes the five of us) go into the field looking for birds.
  • We’re skilled and alert observers.
  • We actively seek out areas that the general public often don’t visit.
  • We use powerful optics, and almost all of us carry either a DSLR camera or a smartphone with a camera built in.
  • What if we birders became ‘eyes in the field’ for wildlife crime and investigation officers, watching not only for birds but for criminal activity as well?

So that every time someone was about to commit a wildlife crime they had to look over their shoulder to make sure that they weren’t being watched, photographed, or filmed.

Wouldn’t that help tip the balance back in favour of our wildlife?

 

 

The Three Rs
buzzard-01BAWC is a simple idea – and, some will say, not actually a new one. Wildlife charities [edited to add: and police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit] 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’:

  • Recognise
  • Record
  • Report

.

We’re building the information that we want quick access to ourselves, information that tells us all how to

  • Recognise what a wildlife crime is
  • how to properly Record that crime so the chances of a prosecution are increased
  • and to whom we should Report that crime.

 

 

Birders Against Wildlife Crime – change is coming

We’ve been talking with investigation officers, the police, and charities. We’ve already contacted influential websites. We’re reaching out to birding groups.

We’ve also decided on three main campaigns for 2014. We’re planning events and wildlife crime training courses. We’re discussing how BAWC might bring about changes in the law that would help our wildlife.

It’s been a very exciting and positive experience! Everyone we’ve spoken to has welcomed our approach (though it’s true we’ve not yet contacted Mr Hogg to explain what we’re doing…)

We’re not quite ready to go ‘live’ (another few weeks will hopefully see us there) but events like the Channel 4 News report and the fantastic response from colleagues that we’ve run the idea past, mean that we’d like to get the idea out into the public domain now.

Birders Against Wildlife Crime. Together we can tip the balance away from criminals and back towards our wildlife.

 

Birders Against Wildlife Crime

  • *BAWC is an independent, volunteer-led campaign group set up by Charlie Moores, Lawrie Phipps, Alan Tilmouth, and Tristan Reid. We are non-political and not affiliated with any existing charity or organisation.

    We’d like to thank Anthony Roberts of Zed Design for donating his time and talent to produce our striking logo.

 

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About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores

30 Comments

  1. Mike Price says:

    This is a fantastic initiative I wish you the best of luck and hope you can engage birders and encourage them to be at the very least more proactive in demanding this behavior is ended, to many seem complain privately about it but not enough go further, contacting their MP or getting behind e petitions for example

  2. Judith Smith says:

    Excellent idea. I have been fighting for years to get a dedicated Wildlife Liaison Officer in Great Manchester Police, instead of divisional ones who are allowed to spend 5% of their time on wildlife crime. They are also not sent on the training courses necessary – wildlife law is a complex subject – and several divisions are vacant.

  3. Charlie Moores says:

    Mike, many thanks, really appreciate the comment and good to hear from you. There’s a lot we can do and we’re planning plenty of ways to help all of us birders get more engaged (as you say) and realise what a fantastic force for good we can be when we work together like this. Exciting times – unless of course you’re a wildlife criminal in which case we’re not going to be very good news at all…

  4. Charlie Moores says:

    Judith, thanks for commenting. The lack of funding for wildlife crime officers is something we’re very aware of. I’ve spoken with police and the retired officer who runs the training courses most current officers attend to see if we might be able to help in any way. Talks are ongoing but we’re hopeful we can sort something out.

    We’ll have a blog on the BAWC website when it’s built incidentally – would you be at all interested in writing or talking to us about your fight to get a dedicated Officer for Gtr Manchester?

  5. Dear BAWC,

    Good luck with this long-overdue initiative.

    I’ve been actively promoting the huge potential value of the millions of UK birdwatchers in assisting combating wildlife crime since I co-led the establishment of the UK Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) some 20 years ago. I believe strongly that birders can become a huge ‘force for good’ by acting as ‘eyes and ears’ for the cash-strapped and under resourced official enforcement authorities. I urge you to apply to join PAW via the Form on the website (www.defra.gov.uk/paw).

    Moreover, if you haven’t already done so, please approach the Investigations Team based as the RSPB’s Headquarters at Sandy in Bedfordshire. Their level of enthusiasm, commitment and tenacity is unmatched and I feel sure that they will do all they can to support the BAWC initiative to aid its success.

    Good luck and best regards,

    NPW

  6. http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/The_British_Government_Give_custodial_sentences_to_people_who_kill_birds_of_prey/
    I wish you all the very best of luck in your venture, I have campaigned for birds of prey including the Bowland Raptors and got 10,000 signatures for my Vicarious Liability E-Petition, above is a link to my new petition which I hope you will share and support.

  7. I am also a partner in PAW and run a small but busy Owl and Bird of Prey Rescue.

  8. Charlie, all the very best with the idea and its implementation. With the signature registration picking up on the E-petition for grouse moor and gamekeeper licencing the message relating to raptor persecution is obviously resonating with more people with every day that goes by. I’ll certainly be “approaching” central Government on various issues once the petition closes (27th Feb ) and keeping the subject alive. I am firmly convinced that all this collective action must , and will, eventually bring action from otherwise intractable politicians. I’m actually pleased I’m on this side of the fence!!
    Again, every success.
    John Armitage.

  9. Derick Evans says:

    Great initiative and not before time.
    A collective effort from UK’s birders to fight against wildlife crime, by finding and reporting the criminals on our local patch, must be the way forward.
    I trust all UK birders will embrace the BAWC and help make it happen. If I can help in any way, please ask!
    Wish you every success!

  10. Charlie says:

    Nick
    Thanks very much indeed for commenting – I do of course know about yourself and your roles with CITES and Defra, and looked into PAW but didn’t think that at this very early stage of our development we’d be considered eligible to join!
    We have indeed spoken to several of the RSPB’s investigation team (and know the League Against Cruel Sport’s teams too) They have been very welcoming and open to discussions which we’re pursuing of course.
    We are very determined that this initiative will be long-term, effective, and – importantly – collaborative. We are taking as much advice as possible: I appreciate that you have a demanding schedule but if it were possible to contact you at some point I would of course value your input very much?
    Regards
    Charlie

  11. Charlie says:

    Hi Chrissie – I signed your vicarious liability petition (and tweeted it several times) and have (just now admittedly!) signed this one – another really important petition and I hope many birders will get behind this one too! I’ve tweeted on several counts – hope it helps!
    We’ll be incorporating a blog and a podcast on the BAWC website – it would be great to have you on a guest if you’d be interested?
    All the best
    Charlie

  12. Charlie says:

    As above Chrissie – I’d really love to talk to you about http://www.chrissiesowls.com/ and anything else you’d like to discuss…!

  13. Michael Naylor says:

    Huge praise to you for this fantastic idea. I’m really looking forwards to getting out there and spreading your word. Thank you.

  14. Tim Cleeves says:

    Great to see this initiative. It is high time people who break the law are reminded that there are thousands and thousands of law abiding, tax-paying people out here who abhor what they’re doing. No hen harriers breeding in England and golden eagles being killed in Scotland …..are we living in the dark ages ?

  15. Tony Perry says:

    This is great initiative and I wish BAWC every success. I think you are right to take a non-political stance and hopefully, in addition to the 3Rs, you can bring wildlife crime to the attention of the general public in an uninhibited, forthright manner that seems to be lacking in some of the big NGOs.

    I detest all wildlife crime and raptor persecution in particular. I look forward to seeing BAWC develop and go from strength to strength; you have my full support.

  16. Charlie says:

    Hi John
    Apologies for the slow response – the BAWC concept has been keeping me pretty busy! Which I’m very pleased about of course…
    Thanks very much for getting in touch. Like you I’m glad I’m on what I (I guess obviously) think is the ‘right’ side. I really do think the tide is turning in favour of wildlife, people are getting really fed up with a small number of criminals causing so much damage, and with social media they’re hearing much more about the problems and not just hearing from one side and not the other.
    I fully support your initiative incidentally, and signed a while back. I’ll keep tweeting about it too. It’s hard to see what real objections can be made to proper legislation to protect such important and globally rare habitats.
    Good luck and thanks for your support. I’m sure we could look into working together on projects i the future if you’d like to discuss it?
    Charlie

  17. Charlie says:

    Derick thanks – that’s exactly what we think and what want to help people do – birders like just the five of us that are setting up BAWC and anyone else who feels that enough is enough!
    Thanks for the offer of help. Once we’re better established (and the website etc is built and populated) I;ll get back to you!
    Charlie

  18. Charlie says:

    Thanks very much Michael – and we’ll be very grateful to you when you do. We’ll have much more info online soon to help anyone do just that, and we’re aiming to then put downloadable media up too that anyone can use to help them ‘spread the word’. Thanks again.
    Charlie

  19. Charlie says:

    Hi Tim – good to hear from you (I don’t suppose you remember, but it’s been a long time since we last met and talked about shorebirds). I agree completely, there are many, many people (birders and non-birders) who can’t believe what is being done to our legally protected wildlife – and we really do hope we can be part of the collective change of heart that sees us taken out of the ‘dark ages’ and put firmly back in the 21st century.
    Charlie

  20. Charlie says:

    Hi Tony, thanks for taking the time to comment and thanks for the kind words. Perhaps we can be somewhat uninhibited (or less inhibited anyway) given that what supporters we might attract will be interested in us because we are only focussing on the one issue – helping fight wildlife crime and helping prosecute wildlife criminals! We’re in an interesting position anyway, and I think as we develop and grow we can help bring about the change that so many of would like to see (and that so many really good people are already working towards of course).
    Like you we abhor wildlife crime and we’re grateful for you support.
    Thanks again
    Charlie

  21. A great idea and not before time.

  22. Charlie says:

    Many thanks for the comment Mark. We’ll be detailing our campaign plans/aims etc on our FB page soon so please do have a look at https://www.facebook.com/BAWCUK

  23. Dave M says:

    Brilliant idea count me in we need to spread this as far and wide as we can and bring these criminals to account. If enough of us start shouting then something must change and if some of us get usable evidence then the judges have to start prosecuting.
    The RSPB only began with 6 women and look at it now.

  24. Charlie says:

    Dave, thanks very much! You’ve summed up exactly what we’re trying to do. And BAWC might just have to start using that ‘Acorns to oaks’ analogy: 1 million+ ‘eyes in the field’ – just imagine what we could all achieve…

  25. paul williams says:

    A brilliant initiative, Paul Williams -North West Raptor Protection Group Member.

  26. Peter Olson says:

    Great idea and congratulations for getting this initiative underway. Myself and several other birders/photographers have been reporting incidents to Merseyside Police involving falconers, hawkers, hunting dogs and shooters. We want to start a conservation volunteers group to do more but have been frustrated by a combination of government cut backs to Govt Depts, our local authority and Police and the recent flooding (Env Agency resources diverted away from completing a combined local flood alleviation scheme/ wetland nature reserve. I’ve produced a document on wildlife crime and the law and will be happy to share it with you if you feel it is appropriate. I’d suggest that you involve not just birders but also local wildlife Trusts/National Trust/Natural England/Local authority volunteers. Dog walkers too as they’re out and about regularly during the day (there are lost of responsible ones – (I’m not a dog owner !).

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