Northern Ireland supports a rich diversity of plants and animals due in large measure to our rich variety of landscapes and habitats, whether terrestrial or marine.
Many habitats and the species that they support are under threat, often from the direct or indirect effects of man’s activities. Some examples of these habitats enjoy a degree of protection, such as National Nature Reserves (NNR) or Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI).
However, much of our wildlife exists outside such protected areas. If these species are to be conserved then they often require some form of direct protection from activities that can damage their conservation status or lead to their mistreatment.
When is a licence issued?
A wildlife licence may be issued to authorise what would otherwise be an offence under the nature conservation legislation. A licence will only be granted where the activity satisfies the requirements of the relevant legislation. In all cases it is recommended that mitigation should be used in the first instance in order to reduce the risk of an offence. A wildlife licence should be considered as a last resort to enable the activity to take place.
The species which are afforded protection through wildlife licensing are listed in the following nature conservation legislation:
- The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended) (the Habitats Regulations)(external link opens in a new window / tab)
- The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended) (the Wildlife Order)(external link opens in a new window / tab)
The degree of protection depends on the particular species. In some cases the protection applies only within specific sites and for others, particularly mobile species, it applies wherever they are found.
What is wildlife crime?
Wildlife crime includes offences like poaching, killing or disturbing protected species or damaging their breeding and resting places, and illegally trading in endangered species.
It is one of the pressures that can push animal and plant species closer to extinction. Some wildlife crimes, such as badger-baiting and the illegal use of poisons and traps, can cause animals unnecessary pain and suffering.
Further advice is available on the Wildlife Crime NI website.
Where you suspect that an incident is a wildlife crime then you should report it to the local PSNI either at the nearest police station or by telephoning 101.
Make sure you state that you believe a 'wildlife crime' has taken place and always ask for crime reference number to allow you to follow up any action.