Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Hunting the hunters

Hen harrier numbers fell  by 20 per cent between 2004 and 2010 mainly due to illegal killing Hen harrier numbers fell by 20 per cent between 2004 and 2010 mainly due to illegal killing Wildlife World
28 Mar
The RSPB introduces a new hotline for reporting the unlawful killing of birds of prey

During the past five years, the UK suffered from a major rise in wildlife crime, particularly in the unlawful killing of birds of prey, including hen harriers, peregrine falcons, buzzards, owls and other raptor species. The latest reported figures showed nearly 500 incidences have occurred since 2012, with many more thought to have gone unreported.

Of all the counties, North Yorkshire has become a hotspot for raptor persecution with 54 confirmed incidences during this period. In an attempt to address the issue, the RSPB has launched an emergency ‘hotline’ for concerned parties to use to report any such incidences.

Birds of prey are often targeted due to their proximity to grouse shooting moors, where they are brought down with pole traps, shot, or poisoned in their nests. Previously, observers of raptor killings were encouraged to call the police, however Guy Shorrock, Senior Investigations Officer at the RSPB, says that ‘some members of the shooting community may feel more comfortable talking to a specific wildlife unit than going straight to the police.’

Shorrock feels that in order to truly tackle bird of prey persecution, people ‘need to be able to communicate with the heart of our rural communities. Often, gamekeepers of grouse moors are aware of the illegal killing going on, but are worried about coming forward.’ The new hotline connects to a specific investigations unit at the RSPB, with all information being handled confidentially.

Court records show that the majority of criminals prosecuted are gamekeepers. ‘However, we believe the instructions come from the land managers and employers,’ says Shorrock. It is hoped that a better alliance of gamekeepers, the RSPB and the police will improve the accountability of estates and their landlords. Shorrock adds: ‘Ideally we would also like to see shooting organisations themselves showing support for the hotline on their websites and encouraging members to be transparent. Wildlife crime gives them a bad name.’

Mark Avery, an expert on birds of prey and a long-time campaigner for wildlife protection, said of the killings: ‘There are people out there who could help the police put an end to it. I hope they do the right thing and step forward.’

The hotline can be reached at 0300 999 0101.

This was published in the April 2018 edition of Geographical magazine.

red line


Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our free weekly newsletter!

red line

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe to Geographical!

Adventure Canada


Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester




Travel the Unknown


Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The green dragon awakens
    China has achieved remarkable economic success following the principle of developing first and cleaning up later. But now the country with the world's...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...


NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...


Tourism might be an economic pillar for many countries surrounding…


Brain sizes directly shown to correlate to survival rates among…


Celebrated author Professor Tim Birkhead provides a fascinating insight into…


The world’s most biodiverse seagrass region – Indonesia’s Coral Triangle…


Ocean conservation group urges world governments to step up action…


As climate conditions at the 100th meridian, the traditional United…


International shipping may be attempting to reduce its carbon footprint, but…


So much photographic theory is dedicated to image sharpness that…


Changing temperatures in East Africa are set to upset a delicate…


As the planet warms and tensions rise, Marco Magrini finds that…


A deep-sea mission in the ocean around Bermuda confirms the…


An oxygen-deprived ‘dead zone’ in the Arabian Sea is much…


Scientists working with new drone technology are hoping to reveal…


A new virtual reality experience, ‘BBC Earth: Life in VR’,…


Faced with protecting a country more than 30 times the…


As Chile’s president leaves office, the country designates large expanses…


More than two years after first being announced, the International…


The winner of the 2018 Whitley Gold Award is Pablo…


Celebrate World Penguin Day with this selection of penguin-related stories…


It takes a lot more than the latest research data…