Cork TD welcomes the establishment of a dedicated Wildlife Crime Unit next year

Cork TD welcomes the establishment of a dedicated Wildlife Crime Unit next year

The common buzzard.

A CORK TD has welcomed the news that a dedicated Wildlife Crime Unit is to be established within the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) next year.

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O'Brien made the announcement at the weekend at the Wildlife Crime and Conservation Conference 2020, stating that a recruitment campaign for rangers for the unit will begin in 2021.

Speaking to The Echo, Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O'Sullivan said the announcement is "a very welcome step in tackling wildlife crime".

The Cork South West TD had made a number of calls for a dedicated unit to be established, particularly since the massacre of 23 common buzzards between Bandon and Timoleague in 2019.

The birds of prey were found dead in December, with subsequent investigations confirming that they had died due to ingesting Carbofuran, a toxic and banned substance.

Deputy O'Sullivan said the incident "sent shockwaves through the community".

"What was needed and what was called for and what I called for at the time in the Dáil was a dedicated, properly resourced Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit within NPWS," he said.

"At the moment, National Parks and Wildlife try their best, but they’re under-resourced and understaffed, therefore although there is a Wildlife Crime Act which states what activities are illegal, there are very very few prosecutions ever taken mainly because the NPWS doesn’t have the resources to track down or follow up with evidence or take prosecutions or make charges," he continued.

Deputy O'Sullivan added that the establishment of a dedicated Wildlife Crime Unit within NPWS is one of many steps he believes need to be taken to stamp out wildlife crime. 

"I also feel that An Garda Síochána need a dedicated Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit and that the two should work hand in hand because what we’ve seen in the past is that where NPWS rangers have tried to take action that it’s very difficult for them to make prosecutions because of the limits on their powers whereas the Gardaí obviously would have far greater reaching powers in terms of taking action so while this is a very welcome step and I’m absolutely delighted that Minister Darragh O’Brien has listened to my concerns and brought this forward, now we need to look at a Wildlife Crimes Investigation Unit within An Garda Síochána," he said. 

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