A chance to be wildlife detectives

Thousands of primary school pupils are to get the chance to become detectives for the day as part of new wildlife crime education project.

The initiative, which will involve around 15,000 primary school children in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray, is aimed at raising awareness of crimes that threaten wildlife and the environment in the North East.

The project, which is unique in Scotland, centres on a new education pack, designed by Grampian Police in association with TAQA Bratani Limited, entitled ‘Wildlife Detectives’. It will feature five different activities including a CSI style Wildlife Crime investigation, DVD and team quiz.

Chief Inspector Janice Innes, head of the Grampian Police Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “Grampian Police Wildlife Crime Unit dealt with 306 incidents in 2011 ranging from salmon poaching to the illegal killing of birds of prey. Crimes such as these not only affect Grampian’s wildlife but can pose a threat to people accessing the countryside for recreation and can cause damage to land.

“It is important that children understand how our countryside is managed for the benefit of both wildlife and people. The pack will help children differentiate between legal practices and wildlife crime. It is hoped the messages will be long-lasting, so in the future as adults they are able to make informed decisions about how they use our countryside.

“Grampian Police has a dedicated team of wildlife crime officers who enforce wildlife legislation, however crime prevention through education and awareness raising initiatives such as this has proven to be the most effective technique in reducing overall incidences of crime.”

The education pack was launched on Monday at Dunecht Primary School by the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson MSP who said. “Our outstanding and iconic wildlife is a key part of Scotland’s identity, enjoyed and cherished by both visitors and locals alike. That’s why it is the responsibility of everyone in Scotland to ensure it is protected.

“I believe the Wildlife Crime Education Pack will be an important resource for schools and pupils throughout the North East, because education plays a vital role in tackling the problems we have with wildlife crime. By teaching young people the importance of protecting wildlife and managing the countryside responsibly, we can encourage them to respect and look after our natural heritage.”

Chief Inspector Innes continued: “All primary 5, 6 and 7 classes in the north east will have access to the education pack which is designed to link with the Curriculum for Excellence, promoting learning through both individual and team work.

“It is aimed at piquing the interest of children and teachers alike, while still imparting important messages. It will equip pupils with the knowledge to recognise the difference between criminal activity and legitimate countryside practices; how to report a crime; and how to be safe in the countryside.

“Grampian Police are very grateful to TAQA Bratani Limited who have provided funding for the ‘Wildlife Crime Detectives’ pack.”

The education pack is expected to be rolled out to schools in early March. The new packs are the brainchild of Andy Turner, the UK’s first Wildlife Crime Education Officer, who joined Grampian Police after funding for the position was secured through the Scottish Government, Rural Aberdeenshire, the European Union, and Moray LEADER programmes, Scottish Natural Heritage and Grampian Police, together with private funding from Optima Solutions UK Ltd.