New protocol to tackle wildlife crime signed by Garda and parks service

Bodies to work together on intelligence sharing in aim to ‘protect natural diversity’

A fallow deer in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan / The Irish Times.

A fallow deer in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan / The Irish Times.

 

The Garda and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) are to work closer together in the areas of communications, intelligence sharing, and operations as they signed a joint protocol on the tackling of wildlife crime.

Wildlife crimes are offences against laws which protect wild plants, animals and habitats.

Previously, engagement between the Garda and the NPWS has been informal and conducted at a local level.

The new protocol formalises the relationship and provides for structured co-operation at national, regional and local levels throughout the State.

The protocol will provide for enhanced and nationwide working relationships especially in the areas of communications, intelligence sharing and joint operations.

The Department of Heritage, which has responsibility for the NPWS, said the protocol would serve to “de-conflict” situations where simultaneous investigations by both organisations might be ongoing.

It said it was expected to bring “significant synergy” to wildlife law enforcement in Ireland.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said “robust and strategic cooperation” between the NPWS and the Garda was “critically important” for dealing with wildlife crime.

“This protocol marks a significant step towards that by progressing the communication channels, information sharing and joint operations that are so urgently needed,” he said.

“There have been a number of devastating wildlife crimes in recent years, including the shooting dead and poisoning of birds of prey, poaching, wild fires and the persecution of badgers, and they need to be tackled head on.

“This protocol will go a long way towards achieving that, in tandem with the new Wildlife Crime Unit that is currently being established within the NPWS.”

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said the establishment of the protocol was “another significant step in our ongoing efforts to work closely with all of our stakeholders”.

“I am very aware of the impact that wildlife crime can have on our communities, particularly in rural areas, and the protocol now provides for each Garda division to appoint a dedicated liaison inspector to work alongside their respective district conservation officers in the National Parks and Wildlife Service,” he said.

“I am confident that the signing of the joint protocol will facilitate a strategic working relationship, establish clearer lines of communication, intelligence sharing and participation in joint planned operations between An Garda Síochána and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

“This will help in our ongoing efforts to prevent and detect wildlife crime and thus protect our precious natural diversity.”