The Mannin Branch Secretary of the Celtic League, Allen Moore, recently highlighted wildlife crime in an article focusing on the fate of a Hen Harrier tagged in the Isle of Man and then found poisoned on a game estate in Ireland. ‘What are the Garda doing’ was the question he posed.
It’s not just the Celtic League that are giving An Garda Síochána a ‘jog’ on this issue in May a TD for Wicklow Jennifer Whitmore TD spoke out calling for the Minister for Heritage to establish a Specialised Unit with An Garda Síochána. I’m not completely au fait with the Irish political system but I would have thought any such initiative would be appropriate to the Justice Ministry in that country and An Garda Síochána itself.
However her point was interesting because she focused on ‘hardy perennials’ of annual wildlife crime, wildfires started deliberately and the deliberate killing of raptors. In Ireland the main agency tasked to address this is the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
However these issues and other wildlife crime problems are not unique to Ireland (or more specifically its 26 County Republic). They are prevalent across all the Celtic countries so I thought I would have a quick look at what goes on (in terms of law and order) to tackle them.
Of course wildlife crime does not just engender the areas Jenifer Whitmore TD highlighted. It also encompasses the trade in endangered species, and other brutal sports such as badger baiting. Indeed if we expand the subject to rural crime it also includes abuse of domestic animal species such as dog fighting etc.
The United Kingdom has a ‘NATIONAL WILDLIFE CRIME UNIT’ but how the various forces across the UK deploy resources is a matter for them. In Scotland the Police Force has a WLCO (Wildlife Crime Officer) in every division. In the various Welsh Forces wildlife crime tends to be dealt with by rural crime teams. The same appears to be the case in Cornwall (which is policed by a force that also encompasses Devon).
Outside of Britain the police force that serves the ‘rump’ six counties in the North the PSNI have ‘Wildlife Liaison Officers’ (also at Divisional level).
In Mann the Isle of Man Constabulary have wildlife crime as an ‘add on’ to neighbourhood policing duties of some officers.
In Brittany the issue is covered by the National Police Force at local level and seems to be focused on EU directives over wildlife crime and Europol directives. Interestingly I hadn’t known until looking at this ‘absorbing topic’ that apparently the largest trade in endangered species is apparently in eels!
You also get innovation. Going back to Jenifer Whitmore TD concerns about wildfires and the damage to environment and wildlife caused (she represents Wicklow which has seen devastating fires in recent years). In Wales the wildfire crime issue led to an inter-agency approach between police and fire service in ‘Operation Glaw’.
It’s an interesting topic and perhaps one for the British-Irish Council although that is not best ‘loved’ by the Celtic League which views it as something of ‘a talking shop’ – saying much but achieving little!
I would hope all our dedicated wildlife organisations have ‘a handle’ on the subject as well. I hope once again Celtic League are not having to take a lead on this from the point of view of getting COMMONALITY of approach from Cape Wrath to Finisterre banging ‘a lonely drum’!
Image: Devastating wildfires just one of the threats to wildlife – Inset The Celtic League Assistant General Secretary, Bernard Moffatt, looks briefly at wildlife crime from the North of Scotland to the rugged coast of Breizh.
Assistant General Secretary Celtic League (21st August 2020)