Here at Animal Friends we love to talk about pets. We’re always keen to celebrate the joys of pet ownership, from the happiness a good walk brings to the comfort we get from the company of animals. However, we are also lovers of wild animals whether they’re big, small, local, exotic, common or endangered. To this end, we support a number of wildlife charities, both global and in the UK.
Today is World Wildlife Day and to celebrate we are re-launching our popular Vote for a Charity competition! Six worthy wildlife charities are in the running for a donation of up to £8,000! Visit the competition page here to find out more and vote for your favourite!
This year’s World Wildlife Day theme is “Wildlife crime is serious, let’s get serious about wildlife crime”. Last year as part of our Animal Welfare month we discussed the illegal wildlife trade; where animals are unlawfully hunted and sold for their meat, fur or body parts. Because of the illegal, and necessarily covert, nature of these activities the hunting methods used are often barbaric and inhumane, with the ivory trade in particular receiving a high level of scrutiny.
But the trade in animal parts is just one aspect of wildlife crime, and it is present on an international scale. But on a more domestic level, what constitutes a wildlife crime, and what is being done to stop it?
Wildlife crime comprises the illegal trading of animals and their parts, poaching, and killing or disturbing protected species. These crimes cover activities such as badger-baiting, incorrect snaring, poisoning or stealing eggs, but any activities that cause unnecessary suffering to wild animals would also be considered a wildlife crime.
The Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime helps organisations to work together to prevent crimes against our flora and fauna. They are deeply invested in protecting our wildlife, but they have highlighted a few key concerns that should be of the utmost importance. A few of their key priorities are:
- Badger persecution
- Bat persecution
- Freshwater pearl mussels
Badgers have been in the headlines for the past year because of the hotly-debated badger cull. It’s not just organised culling that these creatures are facing; gangs with dogs engage in activities like badger-baiting and badger digging, where a badger is hunted, forced out of its sett and pitted against specially-trained dogs. This activity is not only horrific for the badgers, but also results in injury, and sometimes death, for the dogs. It’s estimated that 9,000 badgers are killed this way every year.
Bat persecution includes the deliberate, reckless or unintentional demolition or disruption of bat roosts, to deliberately or recklessly capture, injure or kill a bat or to possess or sell a bat or any part of a bat. The laws have been put in place to provide protection for these creatures, and to ensure that works carried out on buildings keep bats in mind, and to preserve these little mammals. Their numbers have been in steep decline and it would be tragic to see them disappear altogether due to human behaviour.
It has been an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill, injure, take or disturb freshwater pearl mussels or to damage their habitat since 1981. It is also illegal to catch the mussels to look for any pearls they might contain, or to sell (or advertise for sale) freshwater pearl mussels or their pearls. Despite this, unscrupulous people are still going out in search of these endangered creatures. As well as being killed by pearl-hunters these mussels are also susceptible to poisoning by polluted river water, or disturbance due to river work. The law protects them from both deliberate and reckless acts, so it is illegal to cause them harm on purpose or through careless behaviour.
Poaching is the act of catching and/or killing animals on someone else’s land. The animals most commonly at risk are rabbits, hares, deer and pheasants but almost any animal is in danger of being poached, not least because the traps and snares left to capture these animals often catch other animals by accident. Badgers, foxes and even domestic pets are often caught in these traps. Poaching isn’t just a danger to the animals; humans can also be tripped, injured or even shot at in the pursuit of illegal game, either when landowners step into danger, or when the poachers themselves are unwittingly trapped in their own devices.
Wildlife crime is a global concern with widespread repercussions; when one part of the ecosystem is harmed there is a ripple effect. This World Wildlife Day is a great opportunity to shine a light on these issues, both at home and abroad, and to reflect on what every one of us can do to tackle wildlife crime.