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Organisation Reference Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS)
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This information has been provided by the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) and is supplied in its original format.


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.


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 involve pesticides.

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 analysis.

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 out.

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.


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.


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).


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.


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 defra@iforcegroup.com. The report is also available to download in PDF format from http://www.pesticides.gov.uk/citizen/caip.new


The Campaign Against Illegal Poisoning of Wildlife, aimed at protecting some of Britain’s 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 controlling pests;
  • 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 prosecutions.

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 Wales.

Poisoning incidents usually fall into one of three main categories:

(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 way.

Dates Referenced August 2001

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