Around 200 specialists - including wildlife crime officers from police forces across Britain - attended the UK's first ever National Anti-Poaching Conference. It was organised and run by the National Gamekeepers' Organisation.
The inaugural National Anti-Poaching Conference was chaired by Chief Constable Simon Prince, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) lead officer on Wildlife and Rural Crime, and backed by the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the Poaching Priority Delivery Groups. It took place on 11 September 2014 in Staffordshire at the World Headquarters of JCB, a sponsor of the NGO.
Tackling poaching is one of six national wildlife crime priorities* with poaching occurring on a scale greater than all the other wildlife priority crimes combined. Poaching may have a quaint image in the eyes of some of the public, but it is routinely perpetrated by criminal gangs, often involved in other serious criminality.
The conference was a platform for the collective expertise and experiences of a range of rural stakeholder groups to be shared with the authorities. The forum enabled the representatives of rural groups such as gamekeepers, river keepers, deer interests and farmers to engage face-to-face with senior and frontline police officers and crime commissioners. Defra and other government agencies were also represented.
A broad range of topics were aired during the daylong conference including: raising public awareness, getting convictions, connections to organised crime, problems for the rural economy, information sharing, use of forensics, concerns of the meat trade and possible future legal changes. Delegates heard several case studies where operations to crack down on poaching had been successful.
The poaching of feathered and furred game, deer and fish (as well as hare coursing): brings violence and intimidation to those who live and work in the countryside, impinges on the economic viability of rural business, results in the loss of jobs, harms wildlife conservation, damages crops, impacts on animal welfare, breaks the integrity of the food chain and precipitates arson, vandalism and housebreaking (with the consequent escalation of insurance premiums). Poaching also goes hand-in-hand with the use of illegal firearms.
The chair of the conference, Simon Prince, the Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, who leads for the Association of Chief Police Officers on Wildlife and Rural Crime, said: "Poaching is not something new for the police to deal with. We do, however, need to recognise and understand how this illegal activity has developed over time into an organised crime issue with an economic driver behind it. We also need to be conscious of how this activity can impact on our rural communities. Working with the National Gamekeepers' Organisation in raising the awareness to all police forces will help towards forging stronger links with those rural communities in preventing, catching and convicting the offenders." ,
Lindsay Waddell, the Chairman of the National Gamekeepers' Organisation, said: "Poaching is not a bucolic crime of yesteryear. It's vicious modern day criminal activity. Many of our 15,000 members suffer at the hands of poachers, be it crimes against people, property or wildlife. The NGO works closely with the police and others in combating poaching but decided to grasp the nettle more tightly by running the National Anti-Poaching Conference, a first for the UK. I believe the conference, by bringing together experts from the police, wildlife and land management bodies, has added impetus to the fight against this all too common and serious wildlife crime. Let's hope it helps put poaching on the back foot."
Mr Waddell added: "I'd like wholeheartedly to thank everyone who has played a part in making the conference so successful, especially Chief Constable Simon Prince, the ACPO lead officer on Wildlife and Rural Crime, for chairing the event, as well as the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the Poaching Priority Delivery Groups for their tremendous support."
The NGO would like to thank JCB for its generous sponsorship of the conference.
Notes to Editors
The National Gamekeepers' Organisation represents the gamekeepers of England and Wales. It defends and promotes gamekeeping, gamekeepers and ensures high standards throughout the profession. It was founded in 1997 by a group of gamekeepers who felt that their profession was threatened by public misunderstanding and poor representation. The NGO has more than 15,000 members. www.nationalgamekeepers.org.uk