Wildlife crime needs to be “tackled head on” following a number of “devastating” incidents in recent years, including the “shooting dead and poisoning of birds of prey, poaching, wildfires and the persecution of badgers”.

Today (Wednesday, June 23), Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, Minister of State for heritage Malcolm Noonan and the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris launched and signed a protocol between the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and An Garda Síochána on tackling these crimes.

This protocol was developed to “establish closer working relationships between both organisations”.

To effectively deal with wildlife crime

“Informal relationships” already existed between authorised officers under the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 of both the NPWS and An Garda Síochána.

It is hoped that this protocol will “build on that to provide for enhanced and nationwide working relationships, especially in the areas of communications, intelligence sharing and joint operations”.

Minister Noonan said that to effectively deal with wildlife crime and to tackle it “head on” in this country, “robust and strategic cooperation is critically important”.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that the protocol now provides for each Garda division to appoint a dedicated liaison inspector to work alongside their respective district conservation officers in the NPWS.

A new Wildlife Crime Unit is also currently being established within the NPWS.