A WILDLIFE charity is calling for a review into the number of birds of prey that are being illegally shot.

According to the Birdcrime 2018 report by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) there were 87 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution in the UK last year but only one conviction.

These figures include an incident in west Dorset in July 2018, when a buzzard and a barn owl were found dead near Melplash. X-rays determined that the buzzard had been shot in the head.

Dorset Police and the RSPB made an appeal for information following this incident, after concerns were raised that there may be a persecution problem in the area. There were also reports at the time of another dead barn owl and a number of dead buzzards in the area, though the bodies were not recovered for testing.

Mark Thomas, Head of Investigations UK at the RSPB, said: “The illegal and widespread killing of birds of prey has gone on for too long. Current legislation and sentences are proving woefully inadequate and offering absolutely no deterrent to those who want to see birds of prey eradicated from our hills.

"Urgent and meaningful change is needed to the way our uplands are managed, to put an end once and for all to illegal killing and bring back biodiversity to these landscapes. Enough is enough.”

Birdcrime 2018 states that birds of prey continue to be illegally shot, trapped and poisoned, particularly on land managed for driven grouse shooting.

Martin Harper, Conservation director at the RSPB, said: “Any industry which includes criminal and environmentally damaging practices needs reform. The driven grouse shooting industry has, despite decades of warnings, failed to put its house in order - most shockingly turning a blind eye to the ongoing illegal persecution of birds of prey.

"Given we face a climate and ecological emergency, we believe it is time for governments to intervene. A first step should be, as is happening in Scotland, independent reviews of driven grouse shooting for the rest of the UK. Ultimately, the RSPB believes that change will only come through regulation.”

Crimes against wildlife should be reported to the local police via the 101 number. Crimes against wild birds can also be reported to the RSPB online or by calling the RSPB.

If you have any sensitive information about the illegal killing of birds of prey, please report it by calling the RSPB’s confidential hotline on 0300 9990101. Calls to this number are not recorded and will be treated in the strictest confidence.