THE Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and partners have won the prestigious 2017 Wildlife Crime Operation of the Year Award – sponsored by WWF – for their outstanding contribution in reducing peregrine falcon persecution in Northern Ireland through the pioneering use of drones.
“Operation Peregrine Watch” made national news after it launched in February. The team used innovative drone technology, a UK wildlife crime first, to keep check on falcon nests in at risk areas and reduce the chance of illegal killings and egg collection.
The operation has been a clear success and helped the number of peregrine nests to increase in Northern Ireland from an average of 49 per year in 2016 to 55 in 2017. One of these sites that recorded successful breeding pairs was in County Armagh, which had new chicks for their first time in 15 years.
Niki Rust, WWF Wildlife Technical Advisor, said: “WWF is delighted that the Police Service of Northern Ireland and their partners have won the Wildlife Crime Operation of the Year Award for Operation Peregrine Watch. The peregrine falcon is a symbol of our national wildlife heritage that has been ruthlessly persecuted through years of illegal killings and the removal of eggs and chicks for collections and falconry.
“It’s through the clever use of advanced technology, such as the drones, and the tireless work of all those in PSNI that we can ensure that these birds are monitored and protected all year round.”
This award is shared between PSNI and the many teams that contributed to the success of this initiative, such as the Air Support Unit, the local police sergeant and the Corporate Communications Department, Northern Ire-
land Raptor Study Group and Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Superintendent Brian Kee, PSNI Service Lead for Wildlife Crime, said: “We are delighted to have been of assistance in the fight against wildlife crime, and are pleased to be able to continue to work with our partners. In total, 138 peregrine chicks have fledged this year, compared to the average annual production of 109.
“As far as we are aware, the Police Service of Northern Ireland is one of the first police services in the UK to use this technology in this way. The Police Service of Northern Ireland takes all types of crime seriously and this includes wildlife crime.”