Over 100 police officers to be trained to tackle wildlife crime
A hundred more police officers are being trained to combat increasing levels of wildlife crime across Scotland.
About 250 wildlife crimes occurred between April 2014 and last month.
The crimes included trade in endangered species as well as bird poisoning and badger baiting.
However, environmentalists have said the recorded figures are just the tip of the iceberg.
Scottish Environment Link, an umbrella organisation, which comprises over 35 member bodies, has published “a damning indictment of our failure to diminish or eliminate wildlife crime in Scotland”.
It argues Scotland’s reputation as a wildlife haven is under threat because of criminal activity.
Criminal gangs are involved in illegal activities such as freshwater mussel theft and poisoning birds of prey.
The environmental organisations said that to deal with the offences “determined, intelligence-led, carefully targeted and community-based policing is required, particularly in areas where a wall of silence seems to surround wildlife offences”.
Currently, a number of wildlife police deal with incidents but now over 100 more are to receive training with additional courses to be held in order to “substantially increase the number of officers with specialist knowledge”.
Assistant chief constable Malcolm Graham said: “Scotland’s natural heritage is under threat from criminals preying on the country’s iconic wildlife, either for sport or many cases for their own gain. Wildlife crime doesn’t just happen in the countryside, it also occurs in urban areas.
“We have evidence of badger baiting taking place metres from housing estates, deer being poached from city parks, and bat roosts being destroyed.
“Wildlife crime occurs across all of our communities.
“Tackling wildlife crime is not just about law enforcement it is about working with partners and the public to raise awareness and to prevent it happening.
“By the time we are involved it is too late, that creature is lost and our landscape is poorer for the loss.”