06/05/2009

Bird Eggs Get Extra Protection

Protected bird species are in danger thanks to thieves operating around some of NI's most scenic areas.

A new police initiative is now set to tackle the theft of seabird eggs from Big Copeland Island.

Two years ago a large number of eggs - around 3,000 - were reported as stolen.

This theft, mainly of Black Headed Gull and Mew (or Common) Gull eggs, has led to a complete failure of a major seabird colony.

PSNI Inspector Stephen Macauley of Ards Area explained: "The theft of these protected eggs presents the very real prospect of the seabird colony on the Copeland Islands being wiped out.

"Some may view these crimes as victimless, however, they represent the destruction of a natural habitat and an Area of Special Scientific Interest and are crimes from which those involved can make a significant amount of money."

"I would ask the local community, particularly those involved in maritime activity, to be vigilant over the next six to eight weeks when the gulls are laying.

"Any suspicious activity in or around the islands should be reported to the PSNI who will present any available evidence to the PPS with a view to having the perpetrators placed before the court.
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"The penalty for anyone found guilty of the theft of protected eggs is a maximum of £5,000 per egg," he warned.

Inspector Macauley also stated that the Police Service has a robust attitude to enforcing the Wildlife Order, and that the support of the local community on board would make it difficult for thieves to go undetected.

He added: "Volunteer Staff at Copeland Bird Observatory have worked tirelessly to provide a safe habitat for many different species of birds and it is devastating to see their dedicated work ruined by callous thieves who seem to have no comprehension of the damage they are inflicting.

"We are committed to working with Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), Royal Society for the protection of birds (RSPB), Copeland Bird Observatory (CBO), Ards Borough Council and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to educate people about these types of crime and put practices into place to put an end to thefts which endanger the survival of any species," he said.

Police Service Wildlife Liaison Officer, Emma Meredith, added: "The removal of eggs from nests in these circumstances amounts to an offence Under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985."

She added that the Police Service takes wildlife crime seriously, but incidents must be reported to local police as quickly as possibly.

Emma also thanked Ards Borough Council for providing CCTV cameras in the area.

(BMcC/JM)

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