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Through the professional life of Dave Dick, the RSPB's Senior Scottish Investigation Officer between 1984 and 2006, the often murky world of wildlife crime is revealed.
This book faces up to the realities of the often unsuccessful efforts by the justice system in its attempt to stop these crimes. Unflinching accounts of the shocking levels of killing and the cruel and callous nature of the killers are related. However black comedy and lighter moments prevent this being just another catalogue of man's inhumanity to nature with personal accounts of the thrill and joy of watching some of our most beautiful birds and animals in their equally beautiful landscapes.
The author examines the motives of both criminals and their pursuers in an attempt to show the truth of what has become a highly-charged and politicised topic. He reveals the truth of what is happening in some corners of our countryside, where the public may be discouraged to tread and hopes to inform a more reasoned debate on the topic.
Wildlife Crime: The Making of an Investigations Officer
by Keith Betton in the United Kingdom (04/09/2012)
While a number of people have done much to protect birds of prey in Scotland I don’t think any can claim to have done more in recent years than Dave Dick. This is the inside story on his role as the RSPB's Senior Investigation Officer into wildlife crimes in Scotland for more than two decades. We also learn of Dave’s travels abroad to Malta, India and Thailand to help local authorities understand wildlife crimes such as bird trafficking.
Having had an interesting childhood and early career in a band Dave joined the RSPB to work on a variety of short contracts. This led to his appointment in 1984 as a Species Protection Officer. Each page reveals incidents through his career where some clever (and not-so-clever) individuals are followed and investigated. I was struck by the way that in some cases the police went out of their way to help with the early investigations and even if there was insufficient evidence the Procurator Fiscal might get involved to make sure those who had just escaped justice were made aware that their actions were frowned upon.
What is very clear is that while the threat of egg-collectors has diminished greatly the number of people intent on killing raptors has increased and as time has passed it is clear that those who seek to harm wildlife have got more confident and have found better ways to kill their targets as the range of deadly chemicals on offer has expanded. Thankfully most of these chemicals are now outlawed across the UK but despite this they are still widely used.
Dave tells of endless cases where keepers are caught red-handed by the police but walk away with relatively small fines, or where the case takes so long to go to court that the matter is dismissed. A recent RSPB report showed that in Scotland from 2003 to 2008 only 35% of those charged with offences were found guilty.
There are some sad cases in this book – not least the occasion when an egg-collector realised that the Greenshank eggs that he was stealing were in the process of hatching. He dumped the eggs, but the female returned and was still incubating them two days later in spite of everything that had happened. In another case Dave was able to take confiscated Peregrine chicks straight back to their nest and see the parents return to feed them after a few minutes.
During the last twenty years more than 450 birds of prey have been killed by illegal poisoning in Scotland, with a further 320 confirmed as shot, trapped or with their nests destroyed. The result is that there are substantial areas of suitable habitat in Scotland currently unoccupied by breeding birds of prey as a direct result of such illegal activity.
This book is a fascinating insight into the challenges faced by those whose job it is to stop wildlife crime. While there are some pleasing cases where those responsible for carrying out illegal acts are punished, too often the outcome can only leave a committed conservationist to feel disillusioned at the inability of the authorities to apply the law effectively.
A must read
by John Miles in the United Kingdom (09/02/2012)
The start of the book sees a colourful man change from a band member/busker to monitoring Birds of Prey and geese as an RSPB contract field worker. Days spent sleeping in vans and walking over wide landscapes was part of the work. Even sleeping on boards in a derelict croft with the smell of sheep to keep you company! Dave was involved with the national Peregrine surveys as well as the Golden Eagle surveys. Winter contracts on Islay brought him into contact with land owners while counting the Barnacle and Greenland White fronted Geese on their land. This all changed in 1984 when Dave excepted the permanent job of Investigations Officer based in an office in Edinburgh. This makes up most of the book and where the problems really began.
Poison, traps, egg collectors and some falcon thieves are all talked about. Court cases, sheriffs, police, wildlife liason officers and farmers all get a mention. Some become friends, some are not what you call close but you have to work with them and many end up in court because of the evidence brought against them by Dave. The amazing detail on failed court cases with so much time and energy going into them are well worth the book alone with keepers often walking away 'Scot' free!
The amazing tale of Greenshank eggs been found thrown to the ground by an egger due to them starting to hatch and the next day the adult Greenshank was seen brooding two of the chicks could leave you in tears for the right reason where a pit of dead animals and poisoned eggs all laid out to kill fox and crows should make you boil.
Dave's experience even saw his expertise being used abroad in countries like Malta, India and Thailand. From educating police to surveying vultures on remote cliff faces or to looking for endangered parrots in a market in Bangkok, this was all in a day's work for Dave.
The sheer cost to nature over these long years is well captured by a cartoon by Keith Brockie in the book where a gun man is aiming at Red Grouse over a pile of dead wildlife. The strain on 2 replaced knees [I have just had one!] and Dave's heart meant that he retired from the job in 2006 knowing that the whole killing was still going on. It is hoped that this book is read by many who in the end could wake up to this `blood bath' we call the countryside and finally do something about it. I am sure you will be with me as we wish Dave an enjoyable retirement hopefully being able to return to some of his colourful youth!