A course to tackle wildlife crime has been launched by Police Scotland after an increase in incidents in the north-east over the last year.
The Wildlife Crime Investigators course will teach officers across the country a range of new skills and will cover a range of animal related offences from badger baiting to salmon poaching.
The north-east had the second highest number of wildlife offences in Scotland with 40 incidents recorded between 2017 and 2018, including cruelty against wild animals and hunting with dogs.
Assistant chief constable Duncan Sloan, of Major Crime and Public Protection, said: “Investigating wildlife crime can be demanding, difficult and complex. Scotland’s wildlife habitats cover vast tracts of land, often in remote areas, where the discovery of a suspected offence can be made days or weeks after the event.
“This new course is designed to build on our current capability, to enhance the skills and knowledge of our officers in what is a specialist area of criminal investigation.
“We want to ensure that we have officers who are experts in the investigation of the wildlife crime in all of its forms.
“Scotland’s wildlife is one of its greatest attractions, we are committed to. Our officers will be trained to the highest level to ensure thorough investigation of wildlife crime.”
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Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Wildlife crime, in any form and against any species, is unacceptable. This government is determined to do all we can to prevent, address and reduce it.
“Our police officers on the ground provide the crucial initial response to wildlife crime, collecting the evidence necessary for the courts to pursue prosecution, and leading the way in its detection and prevention.
“Investigating these crimes can be challenging, often occurring in remote areas where witnesses are rare and where evidence is often exposed to the elements.
“It is therefore essential that our officers have the support and tools necessary to do their job effectively, and I commend Police Scotland for designing this new training course and providing teams across the country with additional knowledge and skills in support of their pivotal role in combating wildlife crime.”
The Wildlife Crime Investigators course runs over five days and will cover investigative techniques, wildlife forensic recovery and examination, modules from partner agencies, ballistics and firearm legislation.