Conservationists have called for the establishment of a "wildlife crime unit" after a mass poisoning of buzzards in Co Cork. 

The incident occurred near Timoleague last December. Twenty-three dead buzzards were recovered at the scene and sent for testing. It was later confirmed that all had died due to ingesting the highly toxic and banned substance Carbofuran.

Buzzards are fully protected in Ireland under the EU Birds Directive and, under the national Wildlife Act 1976, to kill or injure one is a criminal offence.

BirdWatch Ireland have strongly condemned the poisoning and called for stronger legislation around such incidents.

"History dictates that incidents such as this mass poisoning will continue to occur unless appropriate action is taken," said John Lusby, Raptor Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland.

"The illegal poisoning of birds of prey is a problem which is not just isolated to Ireland, and we appreciate that crimes such as this can be difficult to investigate, but a lot more needs to be done to effectively tackle the on-going illegal persecution of our birds of prey."

"If we are to take wildlife crimes such as this seriously, we need a dedicated wildlife crime unit and there needs to be proper resources allocated for the effective investigation and enforcement of the Wildlife Act.

"Until this happens, illegal poisonings and other wildlife crimes will continue without consequence throughout the country, it is as simple as that."

The incident was reported to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) when a man initially found the bodies of several birds on his land last December. 

Buzzards were driven to extinction in Ireland by the early part of the 20th century, but have naturally re-colonised here after coming from Scotland and Wales.