Visits to S.O.S. are sometimes made by the most unexpected people!!
Just such an instance occurred recently when ten police officers of Suffolk Constabulary joined us for an instructional morning. The officers are all connected to the force's rural beats and were interested in expanding their knowledge of owls and other birds of prey.
During the course of their usual duties throughout the Suffolk countryside, the police are often involved in situations concerning wild animals and birds. Although agencies such as the R.S.P.C.A., the R.S.P.B., the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary exist to meet the specific needs of local wildlife, the police often find themselves playing a supportive role in such incidents, so Suffolk Constabulary felt it important to equip their officers with knowledge in this area.
The day began with an introduction to some of the sanctuary’s native bird population - these being the species that the police would come into contact with out in the field.
Instruction concentrated on bird recognition - in order that police could relay accurate information to other agencies called in to assist them - and bird handling in order for officers to gain a degree of protection and confidence when dealing with beaks and talons at close quarters!
It is hoped that the skills acquired during time spent at the sanctuary will prove useful to our visitors in their line of duty and that their time spent with the falconers has raised awareness of some of the issues facing our beautiful but vulnerable native bird population.
The police visit evolved from a perceived rise in wildlife crimes in general and incidents involving birds of prey specifically. In particular, numbers of wild bird shooting cases have escalated in the last couple of years. The “protected" conservation status of many of the birds involved then demands criminal investigation.
As a response to this worrying development, Suffolk Constabulary took time to re-assess their efficiency in this context. It was decided that some time and resources spent on the area of wildlife crime would be justified in order to embed a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges facing Suffolk wildlife and, consequently, elicit a more robust response in such instances.
The police day at the sanctuary was not a case of “all work and no play” however and all the officers thoroughly enjoyed their time in close community with our birds as well as taking in a much appreciated flying display.