WHAT IS THE WILDLIFE INCIDENT
INVESTIGATION SCHEME (WIIS)?
In the United Kingdom, the Wildlife Incident
Investigation Scheme (WIIS) investigates deaths of wildlife, including beneficial insects
and some pets, where there is strong evidence that pesticide poisoning may be involved.
This Scheme allows members of the public and interested organisations to submit carcasses
or suspected baits. The Scheme also provides a unique means of post-registration
surveillance of pesticide use, so that product approvals can be revised if necessary. In
addition, it provides a measure of the success of the pesticide registration process, and
helps in the verification and improvement of the risk assessments made in this process.
Evidence from the Scheme may also be used to enforce legislation on the use of pesticides
and the protection of humans, food, the environment and animals.
HOW DOES THE SCHEME WORK?
The Scheme is co-ordinated by the Pesticides Safety
Directorate (PSD, an agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
DEFRA) and the work is carried out by a number of different organisations. For example, in
England, the Scheme is organised on a regional basis with the wildlife management advisers
at the relevant Rural Development Service (RDS) office. In Wales it is operated by
wildlife management advisers from the National Assembly for Wales Agriculture Department
(NAWAD), (See below for details of the Scottish and Northern Ireland schemes). The
wildlife adviser decides, in consultation with others if necessary, whether an
investigation should be started. This permits the screening-out of incidents which may not
Incidents may be rejected if they are outside the remit
of the Scheme, for example if poisoning is thought to have involved non-agricultural
chemicals or pollutants. If the field inquiry or the post-mortem identifies the cause of
death as other than possible pesticide involvement, then tissues will not be sent for
In England and Wales, after acceptance of an incident,
the carcasses are taken to a local DEFRA Veterinary Investigation Centre (VIC) where a
post-mortem examination may be undertaken. This may result in bacteriological or
virological tests to determine whether disease contributed to the deaths. If these tests
prove positive, no further investigation under the WIIS will be made.
A field visit may be made by the wildlife management
adviser to gather information to help in identifying the cause of the incident. A further
visit may be required in non-abuse incidents in order to obtain more information, for
example to interview relevant contacts not previously available, or to follow up the
results of analyses.
The field inquiry report, post-mortem findings and
relevant tissues from casualties are forwarded to the Wildlife Incident Unit (WIU) at the
Central Science Laboratory (CSL), York, where chemical analysis of the tissues is carried
The results are collated and interpreted by the WIU to
assess the probable cause of the incident, and whether any residues detected contributed
to the death or illness of the animal. Cause of death is generally attributed to a
pesticide if residues of a chemical or its derivatives are found above levels considered
to represent lethal exposure. In some cases, the presence of residues in association with
typical post-mortem findings may be used to determine cause of death.
ARE HONEYBEES INCLUDED IN THE SCHEME?
Yes, honeybee deaths in England and Wales are
investigated in a similar way. Samples of dead bees are passed by beekeepers to the
National Bee Unit of CSL to enable disease screening and other investigations to be
carried out. Field visits are made by wildlife management advisers to gather relevant
information. Bee samples are forwarded for residue analysis to the WIU, where reports of
the incidents are also collated. There are experimental data, resulting from laboratory
dosing of honeybees with pesticides, which can be used to assist in assessing the
significance of residues in the insects.
The Scottish Scheme is similar to those in England and
Wales and covers wildlife, companion animals, livestock and beneficial insects. Samples
are sent to the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency (SASA) in Edinburgh for
investigation. Veterinary support is provided by the Veterinary Investigation Laboratories
of the Scottish Agricultural College, and Lasswade Veterinary Laboratory. Field
investigations by Scottish Office Executive, Environment and Rural Affairs Department
(SEERAD) staff are normally only undertaken when pesticide poisoning has been confirmed,
unless there is clear evidence of deliberate abuse or misuse of a pesticide.
NORTHERN IRELAND SCHEME
The Northern Ireland Scheme is similar to the Scottish
Scheme. Samples are sent to specified analytical and veterinary laboratories in Northern
Ireland. As with the Scottish Scheme, field investigations are normally only carried out
when pesticide poisoning has been found. Investigations are usually carried out by the
Agriculture Inspectorate, Health and Safety Division, Department of Economic Development.
The abuse and misuse of pesticides affecting wildlife may also contravene the provisions
of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order which is enforced by the Royal Ulster
Constabulary (RUC), supported by the Countryside and Wildlife Branch of the Department of
the Environment (Northern Ireland).
SO WHAT HAPPENS AFTER AN INVESTIGATION?
Where an incident is to be investigated for use in legal
proceedings, evidence is gathered by the DEFRA Investigation Branch, in collaboration with
the Pesticides Safety Directorate, who will rely on information collected by the wildlife
management advisers. SEERAD staff in Scotland, and the RUC, Department of Economic
Development staff and others in Northern Ireland carry out a similar role. Veterinary and
analytical findings may also be used in evidence. The Health and Safety Executive and
local authorities also have a regulatory role under the Food and Environmental Protection
Act 1985, and local liaison takes places between the departments to co-ordinate
enforcement action. The police, RSPCA and RSPB may also investigate cases.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE WILDLIFE INCIDENT
Every year, the results of the enquiries made under the Wildlife
Incident Investigation Scheme are reported in a publication called "Pesticide
Poisoning of Animals - Investigations of Suspected Incidents in the United Kingdom".
The most recent report published is for 1999. "Pesticide Poisoning
of Animals 1999: Investigations of Suspected Incidents in the United Kingdom",
(reference PB 5333, cost £3) can be obtained from DEFRA Publications, ADMAIL 6000, London
SW1A 2XX, Tel No: 08459 556000 or by emailing email@example.com. The report is also
available to download in PDF format from http://www.pesticides.gov.uk/citizen/caip.new
WHAT IS THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST ILLEGAL POISONING OF
The Campaign Against Illegal Poisoning of Wildlife,
aimed at protecting some of Britains rarest birds of prey and wildlife whilst also
safeguarding domestic animals, was launched in March 1991. It is lead by the Department
for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). It is strongly supported by a range of
organisations associated with animal welfare, nature preservation, and game keeping
including the RSPB, RSPCA, English Nature, and the Game Conservancy Trust.
The three objectives of the Campaign are:
- To advise farmers, gamekeepers and other land managers on legal ways of
- To advise the public on how to report illegal poisoning incidents and to
respect the need for legal alternatives;
- To investigate incidents and prosecute offenders.
All these contribute to the main objective which is to
deter those who may be considering using pesticides illegally from doing so.
The Campaign arose from the results of a DEFRA scheme
for the investigation of possible cases of illegal poisoning, the Wildlife Incident
Investigation Scheme (WIIS). Since the launch of the Campaign there have been over 50
During the ten years in which the Campaign has been in
existence, much work has been done to achieve these objectives. A freephone number
(0800 321 600) has been established to make it easier for the public to
report incidents and numerous leaflets, posters, postcards and stickers have been created
and distributed in order to publicise the existence of the Campaign. A video has also been
produced and this is used to illustrate the many talks, demonstrations and exhibitions
which are regularly presented by ADAS Consulting Ltd on behalf of DEFRA in England and
Poisoning incidents usually fall into one of three main
(i) Approved use of the product, according to the
specified conditions for use;
(ii) Misuse of a product, by careless, accidental
or wilful failure to adhere to the correct practice;
(iii) Abuse of a pesticide, in the form of
deliberate, illegal attempts to poison animals or birds.
A number of incidents are reported to the Wildlife
Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) every year, which are the result of the misuse or
careless use of pesticides. Such incidents can result from poor storage, spillage,
chemicals not being used in the approved manor (e.g. spraying of crops in full flower,
rodenticide baits being left uncovered) or compounds being disposed of in an inappropriate