UNDER the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 all wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected species. Despite this, birds are still persecuted and suffer cruel treatment. Birds are shot, poisoned, unlawfully trapped, have their nests disturbed or destroyed and eggs are stolen.
Operation Easter targets egg thieves by sharing intelligence across the UK to support enforcement action. It was developed in Scotland 24 years ago and is now facilitated by the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) in conjunction with UK police forces and partner agencies. In recent years the operation has also been expanded to cover some emerging trends of criminal behaviour – the illegal taking of raptor eggs or chicks to launder into falconry; the online trade in eggs and the disturbance of nests for photography.
The taking of wild bird eggs is a serious crime yet it remains the pastime of some determined individuals. Whole clutches of eggs can be taken from some of the UK’s rarest birds with potentially devastating impacts. The eggs are stored in secret collections.
Sergeant Matthew Langley, Dyfed-Powys Police Rural & Wildlife Crime Team and Force lead for Operation Easter said:
“Operation Easter has been running in the UK for the past 24 years. The Dyfed-Powys Rural & Wildlife Crime Team is working in close partnership with the National Wildlife Crime Unit to play our part in the UK wide operation.
“Training is being provided to ensure that staff have knowledge of the specific legislation to tackle this crime and that they are aware of breeding sites.
“PC Roger Jones, a wildlife crime officer currently seconded to Natural Resources Wales, will be visiting the sites with partner agencies and other members of the rural crime team and will be involved in the gathering of information and intelligence through targeted patrols and communication with key partnership agencies.
“We are keen to gather further information about egg thefts within the Dyfed-Powys area and I would ask members of our communities to report any information they may have to us.”
Chief Inspector Kevin Kelly (Head of the NWCU) said: “Operation Easter is a yearly event that is engrained within wildlife crime Policing. This year we have given the operation some much needed emphasis, focusing our efforts onto assisting Police Wildlife Crime Officers on the front line.
“The NWCU collates and disseminates the information that identifies the hotspot areas where the crimes are likely to be committed and we work with Police officers and partners to ensure these areas of interest are given the attention they deserve, to protect the future of our wild birds. We have a number of skilled and dedicated Police Wildlife Crime Officers across the UK who have adopted this operation and will work with us to reduce criminality, and for this, I thank them greatly.
If you have any information on egg thieves, or those who disturb rare nesting birds without a license, you should contact your local police by dialing 101 – ask to speak to a wildlife crime officer if possible. Nesting will be in full swing by April so please contact the police if you see anyone acting suspiciously around nesting birds.