Posts Tagged ‘carbofuran

29
Jul
14

Poisoned bird found on former DEFRA Minister’s grouse moor: why no publicity?

BenyonIn February 2009, a dead raven was found on a Scottish grouse moor. Nothing surprising about that.

The dead raven was sent off to SASA for toxicology tests and their investigation concluded the bird had died from ingesting the banned poison, Carbofuran. Nothing surprising about that.

There wasn’t any subsequent publicity about this incident. Nothing surprising about that.

There wasn’t any subsequent prosecution. That’s kind of what we’ve come to expect so no surprises there, either.

However, this wasn’t just any old Scottish grouse moor. This was a grouse moor on Glenmazeran Estate in Inverness-shire. Glenmazeran Estate is, according to Andy Wightman’s brilliant website ‘Who Owns Scotland‘, owned by the Englefield Estate Trust Corporation Ltd, c/o Englefield Estate Office, Theale, Reading.

According to further information provided by the Who Owns Scotland website, “Englefield Estate Trust Corporation Ltd is a company registered in England No. 02065923. One of the beneficial owners is Richard Benyon, the Environment & Fisheries Minister in the UK Government (data accurate at August 2011)”.

At the time of this poisoned bird’s discovery, Mr Benyon MP was the Shadow Minister for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, until the 2010 general election when he entered Government. He was subsequently appointed the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DEFRA, with special responsibility for biodiversity and the natural environment, amongst other things, until he was booted out in Cameron’s reshuffle in October 2013.

While Mr Benyon was in post at DEFRA, the government sanctioned the controversial buzzard ‘management’ trial and committed £375k of taxpayers money to help support it (see here), although they swiftly backtracked after a huge public outcry against the plan (see here). However, the following year Natural England, acting on behalf of DEFRA, decided to go ahead and issue a licence (to a gamekeeper with a past conviction for wildlife crime) to destroy buzzard eggs and nests to protect pheasants (see here).

Mr Benyon also decided there was no need to introduce vicarious liability to England because “there are very good laws in place to punish the illegal killing of any animal. If they are not being effectively enforced, they must be and we will take steps to make sure that happens. However, this is a good opportunity to applaud gamekeepers for the wonderful work they do in providing excellent biodiversity across our countryside” (see here and here).

Mr Benyon also refused to criminalise the possession of the poison Carbofuran in England (see here and here).

These actions can be seen in a whole new light given what we now know was discovered on Glenmazeran Estate back in 2009.

Of course, the discovery of the poisoned raven on Glenmazeran doesn’t mean that Mr Benyon or anyone else connected with the estate was responsible. Some gamekeepers on some estates are known to place poisoned baits along the boundary of an estate, presumably to make any police investigation that much more difficult and to potentially deflect attention on to someone else. Glenmazeran is not known to us as an estate where frequent raptor persecution takes place, but it is situated in a notorious raptor persecution area and several other estates in the area are suspected to be regularly involved with criminal activity and some of them even have convictions for these offences.

What’s intriguing about the Glenmazeran incident is the complete silence about this case. Did the police (it would have been Northern Constabulary at the time) investigate? Did they search Glenmazeran or other nearby estates? Why didn’t they issue any media statements about this discovery? Would public knowledge of this incident have jeopardised Mr Benyon’s political career? It shouldn’t have, as he was never implicated in the crime, so why was it kept quiet?

What we do know is that the ‘landowner’ (whoever that was) was informed about the crime. This from the SASA report:

Raven found dead in remote area. The analytical investigation established that carbofuran poisoning was responsible for the bird’s death. The police have informed the landowner of the incident but the source of the chemical has not been established“.

Fascinating stuff.

27
Jul
14

Ross-shire Massacre: the pig’s ear of an investigation continues

RK5Ten days ago we blogged about the progress (or apparent lack of) being made in the Ross-shire Massacre case, four months on from the discovery of 22 dead raptors in one of Scotland’s worst raptor poisoning incidents (see here).

A couple of days ago, somebody told us that the ‘official’ number of birds confirmed poisoned was now 16 (12 red kites + 4 buzzards), according to Police Scotland.

We found this news intriguing. Did it mean that the remaining six carcasses (4 red kites + 2 buzzards) had not been poisoned?

No. What it turned out to mean was that toxicology tests on those remaining birds are still “continuing”, according to a news report in The Press and Journal (see here).

Still continuing, four months after discovery? Is that because the poison is proving difficult to detect, or is it because the tests have not been given priority? If not, why not?

What a shambles. And that’s only the start of it…..

Previous posts on the Ross-shire Massacre here

17
Jul
14

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.

25
Jun
14

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: ministerforenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

25
Jun
14

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.”

Ends

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: ministerforenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

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.

19
Jun
14

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).

06
Jun
14

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.

RKBLUE13_NIJune2014

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.

 

05
Jun
14

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 http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org/. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

ends

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

03
Jun
14

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: doe.iemonitoring@doeni.gov.uk

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

The local police office of the Armoy area: NPTBallycastle@psni.pnn.police.uk

Photo of a white-tailed eagle by Mike Watson

 

30
May
14

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?




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