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Nature: Crime is in the air for wild birds

Crime against wild birds is still rife, despite interest in the environment at "an all-time high," a leading conservationist body warned yesterday.

Shooting, poisoning and egg-collection increased last year, although the total number of all offences reported was the lowest since 1990, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Apart from birds of prey, at least 70 birds were illegally shot, including cormorant, grey heron, mute and Berwick's swans, Kingfisher and even blackbird. Nests of non-birds-of-prey robbed included nationally rare birds such as black-throated diver, roseate tern and chough. Fifty-one prosecutions came to court in 1996, 42 successfully, with fines totalling pounds 26,295 and costs pounds 16,330.

Graham Wynne, conservation director of the RSPB, said: "At a time when the interest in birds and their environment is at an all-time high, it is a disgrace that the law is so widely flouted." The figures were published as the UK Conference of Police Wildlife Liaison Officers opened in Carmarthen.