Posts Tagged ‘carbofuran


Ross-shire Massacre: 4 months on

It’s been four months since 22 birds of prey (sixteen red kites and six buzzards) were killed in one of the worst poisoning incidents uncovered in Scotland in recent years.

Here’s the latest information about how the police investigation is progressing:

nothing 2

Great, eh?

The Untouchables get away with it. Again.

Tune in next month for more of the same. Probably.

For previous posts on the Ross-shire Massacre click here.


Wheelhouse responds to latest raptor killings….by doing nothing

Paul-Wheelhouse-MSP Earlier today we blogged about the latest poisoning victim to have been uncovered in Scotland….a dead buzzard that was found in Fife in April (see here).

This evening, Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse has issued the following statement:

I have been hugely angered to learn about another case of a poisoned buzzard following on from a separate incident involving the illegal death of a hen harrier in Ayrshire. I have made it very clear that I will not tolerate these criminal and selfish acts and this form of criminality has also been roundly condemned by parliament in a recent debate.

These crimes are not the actions of people who value Scotland’s wildlife and natural environment and I encourage anyone with any information on these despicable crimes to contact Police Scotland on 101.

My officials are working on a pesticide disposal scheme to rid illegal substances from our countryside and I hope to see this up and running very soon while the implementation of changes to the General Licences is in the process of implementation.

Our ongoing review of wildlife crime penalties is due by December and these latest incidents only add to the evidence supporting a toughening of sanctions and penalties on perpetrators.

We don’t doubt that he’s “hugely angered” – we all are – but we most certainly do question his commitment to taking meaningful action against the raptor killers.

A year ago, give or take a few days, the Minister introduced a series of what he described as ‘further measures’ to combat raptor persecution (see here). Since then, not one of these measures has yet been fully implemented. Also since then, we’ve seen examples, over and over again, of how these crimes are still taking place right across Scotland. Here are some of them:

June 2013: Shot buzzard in the Borders (see here), later revealed to also have been poisoned (see here)

July 2013:  Buzzard shot in the throat in North Ayrshire (see here)

August 2013: Red kite found shot at Leadhills (see here)

September 2013: Poisoned buzzard found in Stirlingshire (see here)

October 2013: Langholm hen harrier ‘Blue’ disappears (see here)

October 2013: Half-made raptor trap discovered in Angus (see here)

December 2013: Buzzard died of ‘unnatural causes’ near Tomatin (see here) [we now know it had been shot]

December 2013: Golden eagle ‘Fearnan’ found poisoned on Angus grouse moor (see here)

January 2014: Man reported for hen harrier death in Aberdeenshire (see here)

January 2014: Dead bird (species unknown) & suspected poisoned bait found in South Lanarkshire (see here)

February 2014: Poisoned peregrine found near Leadhills (see here)

March 2014: 22 poisoned raptors (16 red kites + 6 buzzards) found in Ross-shire (see here)

April 2014: Man arrested for alleged attempted raptor trapping in Aberdeenshire (see here)

April 2014: ‘Illegally-killed’ peregrine found near Stirling (see here) [we now know it had been shot]

April 2014: East Scotland sea eagle chick ‘disappears’ on Aberdeenshire grouse moor (see here)

April 2014: Gamekeeper charged for allegedly shooting, bludgeoning & stamping on buzzard in Dumfries (see here)

April 2014: Poisoned buzzard found in Fife (see here)

June 2014: Allegations emerge of ‘coordinated hunt & shooting’ of a hen harrier in Aberdeenshire last year (see here)

June 2014: Hen harrier died “as result of criminal act” near Muirkirk (see here)

These are just the ones that have been made public – we expect there to be a number of others that have not yet been revealed to the public.

Each time, we’ve asked Wheelhouse to act. Each time, he’s told us we need to ‘wait’ for the new measures to take effect but he has adamantly refused to give a time-frame of how long that wait should be. It’s crystal clear, even to a child, that The Untouchables are out of control and waiting for them to stop of their own accord is ridiculous.

The Minister’s response this evening is simply not good enough. A ‘poisoning amnesty’? It sounds good, but the truth is it’s been done before and with no effect. Carbofuran has been banned since 2001 – that’s 13 years ago! Does he really think that these disgusting poisoners are going to hand over their private stashes of poison when they know full well they can continue to use them without fear of consequence? The whole industry denies that poisoning is even happening!

We think the amnesty is being implemented so the Government can be seen to be doing ‘something’ but actually it’s just a bit of cynical window dressing in an attempt to delay taking the proper action that is needed. It’s just another excuse to do nothing.

And actually, this amnesty hasn’t been announced as a reaction to the recently-reported killing of the buzzard and the hen harrier. He announced his intention to launch an amnesty in his speech at the Police Wildlife Crime Conference several months ago. So what has he actually announced in response to the poisoned buzzard and the illegally-killed (probably shot) hen harrier? Absolutely nothing.

The Minister says he “won’t tolerate these criminal and selfish acts“. Sorry, Minister, but that is exactly what you’re doing.

If you feel strongly about this and agree that this government is still failing to address the widespread persecution of protected raptor species, we’d encourage you to email Mr Wheelhouse, cite the list of crimes (above) and demand he takes meaningful action or resign his position as Environment Minister. Email:


Another poisoned buzzard in Scotland

buzzard 3Scotland’s shameful catalogue of illegally-killed raptors continues to rise, with news today of yet another poisoned bird – this time a buzzard in Fife.

Here’s a press release from Police Scotland:

Police in Fife are conducting investigations after a dead buzzard was found in woods to the north of Ballingry in late April.

Enquiries at that time suggested the bird had died of natural causes but this was further explored by means of toxicology tests carried out by a Scottish Government laboratory.

This week it has been confirmed the bird died from ingesting a banned pesticide, and the matter has now been referred to the Police.

Detective Inspector Colin Robson, who is leading the inquiry, said: “The bird was found on land in an area commonly used by dog walkers. From the toxicology results, I believe it is probable that the bird has fed on an animal carcass deliberately laced with this poison. Such an act is both illegal and highly irresponsible in an area regularly used by members of the public, and the placing out of poison baits like this is indiscriminate in its victims. This illegal chemical is highly toxic, and the ingestion of even minute quantities by a wild animal or a pet is likely to have fatal consequences. Although relatively remote, I would urge anyone who frequents this area to contact the Police if they saw anyone or anything suspicious around this time or have knowledge of this or similar incidents. Since the discovery there have been no reported linked incidents locally and the area where the bird was found has been searched and there has no trace of the poison or other carcasses. Police Scotland are committed to tackling wildlife crime and this matter is being robustly investigated in close collaboration with partner agencies.”

Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland said: “The recent incident on the Black Isle, where 22 birds of prey were killed, showed very clearly the horrendous impact that the illegal use of poisons can have on wildlife. It is of great concern that someone has placed a bait laced with this illegal chemical out in the countryside in an area well-used by the public and close to our own nature reserve at Loch Leven. I urge anyone who has information about this incident to contact the police as soon as possible.”

Brent Meakin, Forestry Commission Scotland’s district manager for the Lowlands said: “It is appalling that individuals are carrying out this illegal and barbaric practice. The persecution of raptors must stop. Any poisoning of these birds is one too many, no matter the species. We will continue to work with the Police and other agencies to stamp out this activity. The Commission would also like to ask the public for their help as they too can be our eyes and ears and report any suspicious activity.”


So, once again the name of the banned poison has not been made public, although from the comments made by Det Insp Robson, it sounds suspiciously like it was Carbofuran.

Shall we ask Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse what he intends to do in response to this, and the other recently-reported raptor crimes from Scotland? It’s yet another illegally-killed raptor on his watch. Shall we ask him when he intends to actually address this issue, instead of making trite old threats that he’ll ‘deal with it if things don’t improve’? Things are not improving, despite the introduction of his ‘new measures’ a year ago, so it’s not unreasonable for us to ask our elected representative whether he’s as good as his word. Emails to:

UPDATE 15.00hrs: The specific location where the poisoned bait is suspected to have been laid out has been named as Benarty Wood, managed by Forestry Commission Scotland. Dog-walkers beware – see here for site info.


Members of public foil attempt to poison peregrine family

dalkey_quarryAn attempt to poison a family of peregrines (two adults and four youngsters) at Dalkey Quarry, part of the Killiney Hill Park in Co. Dublin, has been foiled thanks to three observant members of the public.

On the evening of 11th June, three walkers noticed two pigeons in distress at the quarry, close to the well-known peregrine’s nest ledge. On closer inspection, the pigeons were found to be tethered with fishing line and had had their wings clipped to prevent them from flying. While rescuing the pigeons, a wet substance was noticed on the back of their necks. It is suspected that this was poison, placed there in a deliberate attempt to kill the peregrines. The substance is being tested at a specialist lab.

If it was poison, those members of the public are lucky not to have been affected.

Full details of the story can be found on the BirdWatch Ireland website here.

It wouldn’t be the first time this barbaric method has been used to kill raptors. In 2011, two buzzards and a sparrowhawk were killed in Ireland after being attracted to live tethered pigeons that had been smeared with the banned poison Carbofuran (see here).


Another suspected red kite poisoning incident in Northern Ireland

There’s more grim news from Northern Ireland this week with the discovery of a dead adult red kite on her nest, along with two chicks. Poisoning is strongly suspected.


The authorities were alerted to a potential problem at the Katesbridge nest in Co. Down by a sharp-eyed local resident who had been watching the nest from her house and was worried something had happened to the female.

The site was subsequently visited by members of the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, RSPB and the Police Service of Northern Ireland where they found the adult (wingtagged ‘Blue 13′) slumped on the nest, along with the two chicks. Their bodies have been sent for toxicology tests.

These birds were part of the small breeding population in Northern Ireland, reintroduced (with donor birds from Wales) between 2008-2010. The population is still tiny and is extremely vulnerable to illegal poisoning.

In 2013 alone, six dead red kites were recovered. Tests revealed that two had been poisoned with Carbofuran, three with Alphachloralose, and one was too decomposed for analysis but was found in the same (very small) geographical area as three of the others.

At least this time the police have issued a very quick alert (within 24 hours of the discovery), in sharp contrast to the 13-month delayed announcement about a poisoned white-tailed eagle that we blogged about a couple of days ago (see here).

As a side issue, this is our 1,000th blog entry. It’s a milestone, but unfortunately not one to celebrate.



Ross-shire Massacre: police confirm banned poison involved

RK7The following statement has just been released by Police Scotland:

Police Scotland Highland and Islands Division are seeking to reassure the public that enquiries are still ongoing into a wildlife crime investigation regarding the death of birds of prey in the Ross-shire area.

The 22 birds (sixteen red kites and six buzzards) were located in the Conon Bridge area and following analysis of the birds’ remains, fifteen have been confirmed as having digested an illegally-held poisonous substance (twelve red kites and three buzzards). Post mortem examinations and toxicology work continues into all the birds seized.

Police Scotland is continuing to work in close collaboration with partner agencies. Landowners and farmers in the local area are also continuing to assist police with their ongoing enquiries.

Police are keen to speak to anyone who has any information about the incident and would encourage them to contact Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.


So, finally, they’ve managed to confirm that a banned poison was involved. About time, too. They still haven’t named it, but the “illegally-held poisonous substance” will be one (or more) of those named on the Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005. These are:

Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium Phosphide, Bendiocarb, Carbofuran, Mevinphos, Sodium Cyanide, and Strychnine.

Now, which industry hates raptors and is known to have a close association with these banned poisons…let’s think hard….erm….

It actually doesn’t matter that the police haven’t named the poison(s). Just knowing it’s a banned poison and not a ‘mystery virus’ or an ‘accidental poisoning’ is enough to put a halt to what has recently looked increasingly like a coordinated campaign to associate the deaths with the feeding regime at the RSPB’s Tollie Kite Feeding Station rather than focus attention on the specific area where the poisoned victims, along with poisoned bait, had been found.

It’s funny, isn’t it, that of all the speculation that’s been aired, nobody seems to have wondered about whether there’s any (legal) ‘vermin control’ being done on those farms around Conon Bridge. Perhaps done on a casual basis in return for access for a spot of pheasant shooting by a small shooting syndicate? But then that’s such an obvious angle of inquiry, the police must have covered it months ago…..right?

The number of confirmed poison victims has reached 15 (it really is like pulling teeth trying to get information about this incident) and the police ‘investigation’ continues…..

Previous blog posts on the Ross-shire Massacre here


Sea eagle poisoned in Northern Ireland: police appeal for info one year later!

WTE Mike Watson2Last week, at the end of May 2014, the Police Service of Northern Ireland issued a vague press release calling for information about the discovery of a poisoned white-tailed eagle in the Armoy area of Northern Ireland. Toxicology results revealed the bird had been killed by the banned poison, Carbofuran.

The thing is, this bird was discovered in April 2013 – over a year ago – and yet this is the first time the PSNI have published anything about it.

Here’s what their press release said:

“Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a sea eagle.

During April 2013 police received a report from a member of the public regarding a dead sea eagle found within the Armoy area.

Subsequent toxicology reports confirmed Carbofuran poisoning to be the cause of death.

Carbofuran is a banned substance which is highly toxic and poses a serious risk to public health and safety.

Police are appealing to anyone with information in relation to this incident to contact them on the new non-emergency number 101″.

It’s not known if this was an adult or a juvenile bird, or whether it was from the Kerry reintroduction project in SW Ireland or whether it was a Scottish bird.

It’s also not known whether this appalling delay was due to the toxicology lab, or whether it was due to the police, or both. It’s not the first time that such chronically long delays have occurred here – see here and here for previous blogs. Whichever agency is responsible, it’s shocking that it has has taken over a year for an appeal for information.

It’s worth asking some questions about this. Let’s email the following people to ask about why it has taken so long to (a) appeal for information about this crime, and (b) warn the public in the Armoy area of Northern Ireland about the serious risk of a banned and highly toxic poison lying around in the countryside:

Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan (who incidentally has recently pledged improved action against wildlife crime – see here). His email address:

Minister for Agriculture Michelle O’Neill (who is directly responsible for overseeing the process of toxicology sampling). Her email address:

The local police office of the Armoy area:

Photo of a white-tailed eagle by Mike Watson



Head gamekeeper convicted of storing 5 banned poisons: gets conditional discharge

sledmereDerek Sanderson, a recently-retired head gamekeeper for a shooting syndicate on the Sledmere Estate in Yorkshire, was yesterday found guilty of storing five banned poisons in his house and in an unlocked outbuilding.

Those poisons were Carbofuran, Aldicarb, Mevinphos, Strychnine and Alphachloralose.

His sentence? A conditional discharge and a £15 victim surcharge!!!!!!!

The court apparently accepted that there was no causal link between the possession of these poisons and a dead buzzard found on Sledmere Estate in 2012 – confirmed as having been poisoned with Aldicarb.

Bob Elliot, Head of RSPB Investigations, has written an excellent blog about this, frankly, unbelievable case, here.

What sort of deterrent value is such a pathetic sentence?


Tenuous threat of ‘killer drug’ Diclofenac to Scottish golden eagles

diclofenacThere’s a rather sensationalised article in today’s Scotsman claiming ‘Killer drug threat to Scotland’s golden eagles’ (see here).

The article suggests that Scottish golden eagles, and other raptors, could be under threat from the veterinary drug Diclofenac – the drug responsible for the catastrophic decline of several vulture species in parts of Asia. This drug has recently gone on sale in Europe, causing widespread concern for its probable effect on several European vulture species (e.g. see here).

The Scotsman’s scaremongering headline appears to be based on the results of a newly-published paper that reports on evidence of Diclofenac toxicity in steppe eagles in India. The link to golden eagles has been made because golden eagles and steppe eagles are in the same genus (Aquila).

However, if you actually read the paper, the evidence is based on only two dead steppe eagles. While of concern, it is still quite premature to transpose those results into a headline-grabbing article that suggests golden eagles in Scotland could be at threat. The study’s findings need to be expanded substantially and be based on a lot bigger sample size than just two individuals before the evidence becomes compelling.

Scottish raptors are unlikely to be at the same level of risk as species in Asia, given that livestock carcass dumps are not permitted here. However, some on social media are arguing that Diclofenac may be used (mis-used) as a substance with which to lace a poisoned bait.

Of course, Scottish golden eagles and other raptors could well be at risk, but then it could be argued that they are also at risk from a whole suite of potentially poisonous substances, some of them just ordinary household products, if those wishing to poison raptors choose to try out other chemicals. However, given the apparent availability of large stocks of the banned pesticide Carbofuran, and the known toxic effects of Carbofuran (i.e. fast acting and pretty much 100% effective), why would a poisoner risk using a chemical that ‘might’ work when he knows he’s got something that definitely will have the desired effect?

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned about the availability of Diclofenac in Europe – of course we should – but those concerns currently focus on the drug’s known effect on Gyps vulture species and thus its significant threat to at least three vulture species in Europe. For that reason, it should be immediately removed from the market.

As for Scotland’s golden eagles, the main threat continues to be the illegal use of the banned poison, Carbofuran. Of 15 eagles (golden & sea eagles) known to have been poisoned since 2006, 13 of them were killed with Carbofuran (see here). This poison has also been used persistently to kill hundreds of other raptors in recent decades, including buzzards, red kites, peregrines etc etc and it is no surprise that it has been named ‘the gamekeepers’ poison of choice’.


A feeble, question-dodging response from the Environment Minister

Peregrine poisoned Leadhills Feb 2014In early April we blogged about the poisoned peregrine that had been found close to the boundary of Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire (see here). We encouraged blog readers to email the Environment Minister with a series of questions about this specific incident and the broader topic of long-term raptor persecution in this particular area. We know from our site stats that over 100 of you emailed the Minister (well done and thank you) and perhaps this volume of email traffic was the reason for his delayed response.

Anyway, last week his formal response was eventually mailed out and we’ve been sent a few copies by several readers. As usual, it’s a fairly generic response and here is a general overview of what he had to say (or to be more precise, what his civil servant had to say on his behalf) -:

“Thank you for your letters to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse. I have been asked to respond.

The Minister has been appalled at the recent incidents of raptor persecution including the mass poisoning in Ross-shire which has claimed the lives of 16 red kites and 6 buzzards. Clearly there have been other incidents across Scotland involving peregrine falcons and most recently a juvenile sea eagle, the first born to the reintroduced east coast birds, has gone missing in an area where raptors have been lost before. The mass poisoning is a terrible loss for the Black Isle and has rightly been condemned by the local community as well as the wider public. The Minister was heartened however, by the contributions made by members of the public, as well as landowners and farmers, to the reward fund set up by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) for information which leads to a successful conviction.

These incidents threaten to undermine Scotland’s reputation as a country that cares for its wildlife and natural environment but reinforce the need for the new measures the Minister announced in July 2013.

In addition to these measures, the Scottish Government launched a Consultation to gather views on extending the investigative powers for inspectors in the Scottish SPCA in relation to certain wildlife offences. The Consultation will run from 31 March until 1 September 2014 and of course all views will be taken into account before a decision is made.

The possession of certain poisons is an offence in Scotland and in order to help rid our countryside of these dangerous chemicals, we shall be looking at building on existing mechanisms to remove them from Scotland’s environment.

You raised a number of specific points about the peregrine falcon poisoning incident in Lanarkshire and I will deal with each in turn below.

1. Why did Police Scotland tell a member of the public this was not a police matter? Will you launch an inquiry and publish the findings?

Police Scotland call handlers must consider the information they are given at the time of the call and not all reported incidents may be crimes. It would be inappropriate for the Minister to comment on Police operational matters.

2. Will you launch an inquiry into PC Everitt’s alleged response to this incident and publish the findings?

The Minister will not be making any statement based on speculative comments posted on social media sites about a serving Police officer. This would not be appropriate.

3. Will you launch an inquiry into why illegal raptor persecution continues to flourish in the Leadhills area, and publish the findings?

The area where the poisoned peregrine falcon was discovered was disclosed by Police Scotland as ‘the Abington area of South Lanarkshire’. The Minister will not be drawn into any speculation about a live police investigation which might prejudice the outcome of the investigation.

4. Will SNH use the new enabling clause in the General Licences to withdraw their use in the Leadhills area with immediate effect?

SNH will consider restricting the use of General Licences where they believe it is appropriate to do so, and on a case by case basis.

5. Over what period of time are you going to measure the success of the new measures introduced in July 2013?  It seems the threat of these new measures has not managed to stem the mass destruction of Scotland’s Natural Heritage.

The Minister has decided it would be inappropriate to impose exact time scales on the effect of the new measures as each measure is unique and will require its own consideration. However, it is hoped to report on the findings of the penalties review before the end of 2014.

Once SNH have had the opportunity to implement any General Licence restrictions the Minister will seek an update on how these have worked in practice. The final measure about Police Scotland use of technology can only be considered on a case by case basis and these are decisions made in the course of operational policing. It would be inappropriate for the Minister to seek to influence operational decisions of police colleagues in respect of an investigation.

Whilst current legislation and these new measures should be given due time to take effect, the Minister is on record confirming that he will take further action if it appears that current measures are insufficient. The Scottish Government takes this issue seriously and I hope that this response illustrates the extensive work that is taking place.

Yours sincerely,

Karen Hunter

Wildlife Crime Policy Officer”.

There’s nothing in his response that comes as a surprise. It’s full of the same old rhetoric that we get every time we ask for more robust action to be taken. To be fair to him, we can understand his view that the measures he brought in last July need time to take effect. The problem with that though, is that here we are, 10 months later, still waiting for many of those measures to actually be enacted and meanwhile the filthy criminals continue with their systematic persecution, knowing full well they’re still untouchable. His refusal to set a review date to assess whether his new measures have been effective is very disappointing. We’ll probably be here in the same place two years down the line, still waiting, and still counting the cost (in terms of raptor deaths) of this constant procrastination.

We were particularly disappointed with his answer to question 3. Perhaps he’s not familiar with the geography of South Lanarkshire, and especially the proximity of Abington village to the Leadhills Estate boundary. Here’s a map:

Leadhills Abington map

The big brown smudge in the middle (or, to borrow a phrase from George Monbiot’s latest excellent article, that “bare black misery“) is Leadhills grouse moor. The site where the peregrine was found poisoned with Carbofuran is closer to that grouse moor than it is to Abington village. That’s not to say that we’re accusing anyone from Leadhills Estate of being responsible for poisoning the peregrine, it’s just a clarification that the site falls within what we would describe as the ‘Leadhills area’ – an area with a 40+ year history of illegal killing, including plenty of Carbofuran abuse in recent decades. Perhaps Police Scotland chose to describe the site as being in the ‘Abington area’ to deflect attention from this being yet another persecution incident in what is one of  Scotland’s blackest areas for long-term raptor killing. It’ll make the crime stats look better is this one can’t be attributed to the Leadhills area.

We’ll look forward to hearing the results of their ‘live police investigation’….yeah, right.

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