27 April 2017

WIIS investigate rogue pest controllers

The Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) and its counterpart in Scotland (WIIS - Scotland) are involved in wildlife crime investigations as illustrated by the following two case studies. The WIIS was involved in the investigation of a pigeon fancier from Sunderland who was fined after pleading guilty to using and storing a banned pesticide.

The investigation followed intelligence handed to police by the RSPB. A plastic container, supposedly containing a pigeon multi-vitamin supplement, was recovered during a search of the offender's home. Forensic tests by the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) confirmed the substance was carbofuran. The offender claimed that he had been given the substance to use as a rodenticide and applied it to chocolate in order to poison mice on his allotment. Storing pesticides out of their original containers and using unknown compounds is illegal, while combining pesticides with edible material can result in poisoning of people, companion animals and wildlife. The WIIS and partner agencies work together to investigate and prosecute such incidents. Suspicious incidents can be reported to WIIS on Freephone 0800 321600 and information relating to bird of prey persecution should be reported to local police by calling 101 or Crimestoppers (0800 555111).

The Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) also provides analytical chemistry analysis and evidence in support of Scottish investigations into illegal activity, wildlife crime and the enforcement of pesticide and environment-related legislation. One recent Scottish investigation resulted from a member of the public observing a distressed buzzard and a nearby pheasant carcas contaminated with blue granules.

On investigation, the police found the buzzard dead and the pheasant bait. These were examined by the veterinary services of Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) Consulting, a division of Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) and samples were tested by SASA. The analysis revealed that the buzzard died from ingesting the poisoned bait (carbofuran). Subsequent investigation of a local gamekeeper's premises revealed several containers that SASA analysis confirmed contained pesticide formulations that were illegal to possess. The gamekeeper admitted four contraventions under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and was fined.

Find out more about WIIS on their website.

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