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Wildlife crime is soaring.

Byline: Andrew Forgrave Rural Affairs Editor

POLICE forces investigating wildlife crime in Wales were just scratching the surface of the problem, a conference heard yesterday.

More than 300 incidents were examined in North Wales last year but these were only the tip of the iceberg because many crimes went unreported or unnoticed, 120 delegates were told at the first Welsh conference on wildlife crime at Llandudno.

Richard Brunstrom, Chief Constable of North Wales Police, said Wales now had a chance to take a UK lead on tackling wildlife crime by setting up a multi-agency approach and collating statistics.

Landowners, farmers and the public needed to be made more aware of the problem so that they became the "eyes and ears" of the police in identifying wildlife criminals.

Badger-baiting, cock-fighting, picking rare plants, destruction of habitats, trap-setting and poisoning were just some of the criminal offences occurring in Wales, said Wildlife Liaison Officer Sgt Pete Charleston, who is on secondment to the Countryside Council for Wales.

Egg theft - almost exclusively by English city dwellers - remained problematical in places like Anglesey and Lloen, along with the Waleswide trapping of kites, buzzards and otters.

Last year was one of the worst on record for peregrine falcon poisonings, the conference heard.

Domestic animals, particularly cats, often suffered horrific injuries when accidentally caught in traps, while poisons posed a risk to children.

Simon Evans, an RSPCA inspector, said there was a "hardcore" of wildlife criminals operating in Wales who supplied customers ranging from individuals wanting curios to the international wildlife market.

These gangs were often involved in other criminal activities, from drugs to theft, and police investigations on wildlife crime could potentially yield important leads in urban areas, said Sgt Charleston.

International wildlife crime is estimated to be worth about pounds 2bn a year.

This was emphasised by the case of Dutch-born taxidermist Nicolaas Peters, who was jailed for two years after police raided his Newtown home and found hundreds of rare specimens of birds, mammals and reptiles, said Duncan McNiven, of the RSPB Investigations Unit.

In Cardiff a giant clam smuggled from Indonesia was seized from a furniture store, while barn owls, otters and birds of prey - worth up to pounds 1,000 on the black market - had been found in a freezer, said Sgt Ian Guildford, of South Wales Police.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 14, 2001
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