High levels of rodenticide residues found in birds of prey in Scotland

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The Scottish annual wildlife poisoning by pesticides report highlights an increase in the number of incident submissions and the devastating impact that the irresponsible abuse of pesticides can have on wildlife.

Published by the Government’s Science Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) on 24 August the report unveils the results of Scotland’s Wildlife Investigation Scheme (WIIS). (The Scottish version of the similar WIIS for England, Wales & Northern Ireland).

Birds of prey, wild mammals, livestock and pet dogs and cats were all found to be victims of accidental or deliberate poisonings.

In 2010, 233 incidents (which included five bee incidents) were referred to the WIIS Scotland and represented a 40% increase in the number of submissions compared to 2009. Five incidents were excluded, leaving 228 incidents accepted for further investigation. The cause of death or illness was determined in 123 incidents and unknown in 105 incidents. 106 incidents (46% of all incidents accepted into the WIIS Scotland) tested positive for pesticide residues.

Thirty two incidents were categorised as abuse, 11 incidents were attributed to unspecified use, two incidents followed approved use, two incidents were a result of misuse and three incidents were attributed to veterinary use.

Selected samples were also screened for evidence of exposure to anticoagulant rodenticides. Residues of various anticoagulant rodenticides were detected in 72 out of 183 incidents (i.e. 39% of those incidents selected for rodenticide screening). The second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides – bromadiolone, brodifacoum and difenacoum – were found to be the most prevalent active ingredients detected.


Rodenticide residues were
detected in 32 buzzards

This is not good news for professional pest controllers. A copy of the SASA report can be downloaded by clicking here. (1.8MB)

Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said: “This report highlights the devastating impact that the irresponsible abuse of pesticides can have on our wildlife. Scotland”s natural environment is one of our most valuable assets and it is essential that we protect it and ensure that pesticide use is regulated appropriately.

“A variety of domestic animals have also fallen victim to both deliberate and accidental poisonings, including livestock and family pets such as dogs and cats. The number of birds of prey which continue to be victims of deliberate poisoning does remain a concern and we will continue to use the range of measures available to combat this.

“Whilst I welcome a slight reduction in the overall number of abuse incidents from 2009 into 2010, there is unfortunately no change in respect of cases involving raptors. However, early indications would seem to suggest that there is a reduction this year. I am delighted to see law enforcement, land management organisations and conservation bodies now working together to tackle the wide issues surrounding raptor persecution. We will continue to work with the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland to put a stop to these illegal activities which are a blight on our countryside.”

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: “SASA”s toxicology analysis is a vital part of the work in combating wildlife crime in Scotland. The 2010 report highlights the high proportion of pesticide abuse cases still involving our iconic bird of prey species. The impact of illegal poisoning on these and other bird of prey species remains a serious concern, undermining the recovery of their populations. We welcome the increased reporting by the public of potential illegal poisoning cases, and the steps being taken by Scottish landowning interests, who we are working alongside, to bear down on those who continue use poisons illegally and indiscriminately in our countryside.”

Superintendent Alan Smailes, chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, said: “I welcome the release of the statistics and the detail the report provides. Whilst there will always be different interpretations of statistics it is clear that the efforts PAW partners are making to eradicate this problem are having an effect and are the only way to make further progress. An interesting aspect of the report is that the data confirms existing suspicions that poisonings are becoming more geographically polarised. As for those areas where poisoning is continuing to occur, it is becoming ever more apparent who and where you are and we will not hesitate to use all means at our disposal to stop you.” 

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