By Paddy Woodworth
There is a widespread belief here, on both sides of the Border, and probably in most countries, that the police don’t care very much about crimes against wildlife, especially where there is no direct threat to humans.
It’s a prejudice I shared until an incident on Rogerstown Estuary, in north Co Dublin, five years ago. I had seen someone shooting within the BirdWatch Ireland reserve, disturbing large flocks of roosting geese, ducks and waders. I was volunteering as a hide warden there, and we had been instructed not to approach suspected poachers but to summon the Garda to deal with them.
I called the local station, but I didn’t really believe the garda who told me he would send a squad car over as soon as possible. In any case, the shooter quickly moved out of view. I was pleasantly surprised when I got a call from another garda, less than half an hour later, asking if I would come to identify some dead birds. He had found a hunter off the reserve, on a public road, but with three dead geese on his belt.
It was impossible to prove that this man had shot them in the reserve, and he said he hadn’t, but the garda suspected that the birds were protected and, therefore, illegal quarry for hunters.
He didn’t claim to be an ornithologist, but he was a smart cop. The hunter had told them these were greylag geese, a legitimate target under many circumstances. But these birds were black and white, not grey. The garda’s instinct was spot on. These were brent geese, long-distance migrants that are fully protected by law here. More....