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Undisturbed - A New Campaign from the UK National WIldlife Crime Unit

Undisturbed - A New Campaign from the UK National WIldlife Crime Unit

In this week's guest blog, we hear about the new Undisturbed campaign by the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit:

The UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) have launched “Undisturbed” – a social media initiative to raise awareness amongst wildlife photographers and drone users of their responsibilities while sourcing images of wild animals.

The affordability of modern digital camera technology has produced an ever-growing interest in capturing photographs of wildlife. As a result, a number of leading UK wildlife photographers and charitable organisations have expressed concern at the amount of wildlife disturbance being caused by prospective photographers seeking natural history subjects. Unlicensed disturbance of mammals and birds may result in a conviction under wildlife or marine legislation attracting sentences up to £5,000 fine or 6 month’s imprisonment.

Between 17th May 2019 and 1st November 2019 the NWCU will seek to highlight issues regarding wildlife disturbance by providing weekly tweets on a Friday by providing weekly tweets on a Friday (@ukwildlifecrime)". These will relate to photographing different seasonal species and the consequences associated with causing unlicensed disturbance but the messages will be equally relevant to general wildlife watchers too. Social media networks will ensure rapid distribution of each message across the UK. Approaches have also been made to the photographic media.

Constable Charlie Everitt, the NWCU's Scottish Investigative Support Officer, has seen the number of disturbance incidents grow over time and said, "In recent years we have received reports from concerned members of the public about photographers disturbing some of our more sensitive species including otters, dolphins, whales, pine marten, capercaillie, osprey and eagles." Meanwhile the rising popularity of drones brings another dimension of disturbance to wildlife with footage found on the internet showing disturbance to seals at protected haul out sites and seabird colonies nesting on cliffs. "A drone flown over resting seals can create panic and result in a stampede to the sea risking injury to pups and younger seals. Similarly a drone passing nesting seabirds on a cliff can cause adult birds to flee exposing eggs and chicks to predation. Not only may incidents of disturbance be illegal but they also impact on conservation."

Leading photographer Laurie Campbell has over 40 years’ experience in photographing wildlife and has seen a gradual increase in the number of wildlife disturbance incidents by members of the public with cameras. Laurie offers the following advice:

“As far as possible, one should always research the species of bird or mammal in advance and to determine its protected status within law before attempting to photograph it. Recognising the signs of stress and being aware of any changes in the natural behaviour of any animal is vital, both to judge how close you may approach safely, and when to back away. Regardless of whatever the protected status of the species may be, its welfare must always come before the desire to photograph it.”

Licences to disturb protected wildlife for the purposes of photography can be granted by Scottish Natural Heritage. Evidence of an applicant's photographic proficiency is often required before a licence is granted and the desired outcome is always for disturbance to be minimised.

Chief Inspector Lou Hubble, Head of the NWCU, said, “Wildlife is amazing! It is a real privilege to see animals and birds in their natural habitat. We have such a diverse range of species throughout the UK and it is only natural to want to get close to them. However, this initiative serves to remind people that disturbance could be a criminal offence. Please be responsible when photographing or filming wildlife and birds and allow others to enjoy the experience as you have.”

The project is supported by the Partnerships for Action Against Wildlife Crime in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Further information on how to photograph wildlife safely can be found at:

Information on licences can be found at:

Anyone seeing an incident of illegal wildlife disturbance should contact the Police on 101.


Posted by: / 10 June 2019 at 13:57 / Comment

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