Ian Laing was the first wildlife crime liaison officer deployed in the Kingdom.
As he prepares to retire and move to a new role at Lochore Meadows, he looks back on his extraordinary beat ...
When Ian Laing became Fife Police wildlife crime liaison officer four and a half years ago, he was walking into a job which was a completely blank canvas.
It was the first time a police officer had been employed to tackle the growing problem of crime against wildlife in the Kingdom, covering anything from deer poaching and dog fighting to selling endangered species parts.
But Ian, who grew up in the countryside and had always been interested in wildlife, quickly got his teeth into the new post, establishing valuable contacts and gaining the trust and respect of landowners and farmers around Fife.
Now, after 30 years of police service, he is retiring from the force and moving on to pastures new – although not very far away, as he is taking on the role of park ranger at Lochore Meadows from mid-July.
“It has been a wonderful job, the best in the police, and I have loved every minute of it,” he told the Press.
“There have been many highs – and lows – but the best part has been working with people who are incredibly driven and keen to tackle all kinds of wildlife crime. It is an area of policing that is very specialised, and those dealing with it are very dedicated to their work.
“I have been lucky in that the people we have dealt with in the community who I have come into contact with have been incredibly supportive to what we are trying to achieve, and that has made it all the more enjoyable for me.”
A lot of Ian’s work has centred around the issue of deer poaching and coarsing in Fife, where they are hunted using dogs, with incidents stretching the breadth of the region.
But he is glad to say that dog fighting is not a major problem in the area.
“This was one that we dealt with back in 1988 and it was really nipped in the bud.
‘‘There are still a few locations where we can say it is still ongoing, but we know about it and can deal with it.”
And he said one of the more recent heartbreaking cases involved the dog which was discovered burned to death after being tied to a tree in Kirkcaldy woodland.
“This incident caused a huge public outcry as soon as it hit the press, and it was very quickly dealt with thanks again to the huge public support. Social media played a big role in this as well as other incidents, including one where someone bragged about killing a deer and was caught through this.”
Kingdom leading the way in wildlife crime
From having no dedicated wildlife crime resources, Fife is now leading the way in dealing with the issue and it has hosted five seminars in recent years on a variety of related subjects from the licensing of air weapons to animal diseases.
Ian said: “This doesn’t happen anywhere else in Scotland, and has helped us to build and enjoy excellent relationships with farmers, landowners and gamekeepers. We want to continue that after I leave.
“It is a very satisfying job when you see people being caught for a crime or help to stop or reduce crime against wildlife, and over the years my role has grown, and there are sometimes not enough hours in the day!
“It has grown arms and legs, and in particular Fife division has been actively involved in legislation dealing with trading in endangered species, which is something I didn’t imagine us being involved in.
“In Fife we are well served, because out of 14 police divisions only five have full-time dedicated wildlife crime officers, and others have just part-time officers, while Fife geographically is postage stamp sized compared to some of the other divisions.”
Ian will finish up on July 16, by which time it is hoped another person will have been appointed to take on his role.
“The last four years have been fantastic and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as Fife’s wildlife crime liaison officer,” said Ian.
“I want to thank everyone who has made it so enjoyable for me and wish whoever takes on the role continued success.”