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30 November 2017

The UK’s wildlife heroes were celebrated this weekend at the 29th National Wildlife Crime Enforcer’s Conference, with WWF-sponsored awards given to the very best wildlife enforcers. Winners included the head of the “animal FBI” unit and a UK-first, drone-based, wildlife crime operation. The awards commend the law enforcers who have shown significant contributions in the field of wildlife crime, and helped to tackle issues such as illegal ivory trading and raptor persecution.

Niki Rust, WWF Wildlife Technical Advisor said:

“It is thanks to the hard work of all our winners that wildlife criminals have been brought to justice in the UK and internationally. These dedicated law enforcers are the people who are out in the field, come rain or shine, stopping crime at its source and making a positive difference to our precious wildlife.

“Wildlife crime pervades rural and urban areas alike, so having such passionate and dedicated enforcers helps to reduce poaching and trade in illegal plants and animals. This not only protects wildlife but also makes sure wildlife crime doesn’t pay”

Wildlife Crime Operation of the Year Award

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has won the WWF-sponsored, prestigious 2017 Wildlife Crime Operation of the Year Award for their outstanding contribution to reducing peregrine falcon persecution in Northern Ireland through the pioneering use of drones.

“Operation Peregrine Watch” made national news when it launched in February. The team used innovative drone technology, a UK first in wildlife crime, to keep check on falcon nests in at-risk areas and reduce the risk of illegal killings and egg collection. The operation has been a clear success as the number of peregrine nests increase in Northern Ireland from 49 per year to 55 in 2017.

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.”

This award is shared between PSNI and the many teams that contributed to the success of this initiative, such as the Air Support Unit, local Police Sergeant and Corporate Communications Department, Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group and Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Wildlife Crime Lifetime Achievement Award

Chief Inspector Martin Sims, head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), has won the WWF Lifetime Achievement Award for his 30 years of commitment to tackling crime. His years of service have been pivotal in the fight against wildlife crime. He has overseen the first ever hearing for using the Proceeds of Crime Act in bat roost destruction in the UK, which resulted in significant fines and highlighted the issue of property development and their impacts on wildlife.

Martin Sims was the second Briton in 40 years to win the prestigious international Clark R Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award, presented to him at the International Wildlife Trade Conference in Johannesburg in 2016, due to his long-standing commitment to fight wildlife crime, including helping to seize illegal plant and animal parts.

His small team currently supports a huge 70% of all wildlife crime investigations in the UK and has been hailed as the “animal FBI”.

Chief Inspector Martin Sims said:

“I feel very honoured to have received the lifetime achievement award which was totally unexpected. Since a small boy I have always loved wildlife and have a lifelong interest in all aspects. Having established a structure for tackling wildlife within Sussex some 7 years ago and continued that work on a national level with the National Wildlife Crime Unit for the past 3 years I feel I have put something back for all the years wildlife has meant something to me.

“I will be looking to continue that work in some capacity as retirement from the Police service looms within the next 4 weeks. I would like to thank all the wildlife crime officers from the different Forces I have worked with over the past years and colleagues from both the statutory agencies and non-government organisations that have helped in tackling wildlife crime.”

Wildlife Crime Enforcer of the Year Award

Police Sergeant Kevin Kelly of the North Yorkshire Police has won the Wildlife Law Enforcer of the Year Award for his outstanding achievements in enforcement of wildlife law. Sgt Kevin Kelly has been instrumental in transforming the way that wildlife crime is dealt with in the north of Yorkshire, setting up a new unit of 17 officers dedicated to tackling the issue. Most recently, he over saw “Operation Jumbo” – an anti-wildlife crime operation that boasted over 40 arrest in three weeks for coursing, badger digging, animal cruelty, burglary and vehicle theft in North Yorkshire.

Sergeant Kevin Kelly of the North Yorkshire Police said:

“It's a great pleasure to receive such a prestigious award. I had no Idea I had been given nominations so imagine when I hear my work being read out, I was filled with excitement.

“Partnership working is a key ingredient to success, along with drive and determination to deliver. There was a time I used to dream of a dedicated team. Now we have it, I supervise it, and those results show were delivering. The RSPB, RSPCA, WWF and NWCU are just some of the agencies that have made our success happen. Moving forward, I will continue to enforce, I will continue to lead the teams from the front and keep them hungry, busy, and protecting our wildlife for everyone to enjoy.”

-End-

For more information, please contact Megan Harvey:
T: 01483 412219 | E: internmharvey@wwf.org.uk

About the Wildlife Crime Awards

Awards will be presented at the 29th National Wildlife Crime Enforcer’s Conference where law enforcers, statutory agencies and NGOs gather to hear the latest approaches, successes and challenges of combating wildlife crime in the UK.  The conference will be hosted at Ashorne Hill Conference Centre in Leamington Spa from the 24th to the 26th of November.

The awards are an annual event at the conference, sponsored by WWF, which celebrates the UK’s best law enforcers and their hard work in tackling wildlife crime.

About WWF

WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.