Posts Tagged ‘carbofuran


No prosecution for poisoned baits found on Leadhills Estate?

leadhills estateEight months ago (March), a significant haul of pre-prepared poisoned baits was discovered on Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire. The baits comprised chopped up pieces of rabbit, liberally sprinkled with the banned poison Carbofuran, that had been placed inside two gamebags that had been hidden inside a wood next to a grouse moor.

The discovery was made by fieldworkers from Project Raptor and they duly reported their finding to the police. We waited for a press release and an appeal for information from the police but nothing came, so three months later (June) we blogged about it (here) because, unlike the police, we considered it a newsworthy item in the public interest, as apparently did BBC Scotland (here).

Recently, an update on the police investigation appeared on Project Raptor’s website:

24th October 2013. Project Raptor have contacted South Lanarkshire police and they have now informed us that evidence gathered from the two game bags has come back negative. This means that unless further evidence comes their way then this case is just another in a long line of wildlife crimes that have taken place within the Leadhills area over the years that will never be solved”.  See here for full update.

When Project Raptor says that ‘evidence gathered from the two gamebags has come back negative‘ they do not mean that the analysis of the poison came back negative – SASA has already confirmed the poison found on those baits was Carbofuran and they included the incident in their quarterly report on poisoning incidents. Rather, what we think Project Raptor is referring to is that any fingerprint or DNA testing that might have been done on the two gamebags has come back negative.

This means that there is no evidential link between the two gamebags and any individual person and therefore it is not possible to charge anyone for committing an offence in relation to these items.

This case is an excellent example of just how difficult it is to bring illegal poisoners to justice. It’s not the fault of the police that there isn’t enough evidence, although to be frank they are not blameless in this particular situation – had they had the foresight and interest to install a covert camera overlooking the site where the poisoned baits had been found they may well have caught the criminal(s) in the act of retrieving the bait or even adding more bait to the secret stash. They could (should) also have conducted a thorough search of the surrounding area, particularly the adjacent grouse moor, to see whether any of the baits had already been placed out on the hill. Given that one of the bags was full (of bait) and the other bag was only half-full, this would have been a reasonable assumption, especially given the reported history of poisoned baits being found on this estate (see here). Instead, the police decided to arrive on site in two marked police vehicles (thus alerting everybody to their presence and allowing any nearby criminal to hide any other incriminating evidence) and they quickly removed the gamebags and left the site without conducting a wider search. On top of all that, they still have not issued a press release about this case, giving us the impression that they’re just not all that bothered. At the very least they should be alerting the general public to the potential threat of people and their pets stumbling across what is a fatally toxic poison in a publicly-accessible area.

So is that it, then? Will the discovery of these baits (which we believe to be the biggest stash of pre-pared baits found since 32 poisoned baits were found on Glenogil Estate in 2008) just be conveniently ignored and everyone carries on as usual? For certain, these baits will not feature in any ‘official’ raptor persecution statistics because, as we were recently told by the Environment Minister’s office, where poisoned baits have been discovered but ‘no raptors were involved’ they cannot be listed as a raptor persecution incident. We don’t actually know whether ‘no raptors were involved’ at Leadhills because the police didn’t conduct a search to look for poisoned carcasses!

It looks certain that no action will be / can be brought in the criminal courts. But what about other types of action?

There’s the possibility of civil action – we will wait to see whether any single farm payments are withdrawn from Leadhills Estate by the Scottish Executive (as they were from Glenogil Estate in 2008 – see here) although we suspect any such action would be strongly challenged by the estate precisely because there is no evidential link between the baits and any employee of Leadhills Estate.

Great, isn’t it?

Is there any other type of action? Well, yes, there is. What we would really like to see is action taken by Scottish Land and Estates, the representative body of Scottish landowners. The only response we saw from SLE about the discovery of the poisoned baits on Leadhills Estate was a false accusation levelled at this blog for reporting the incident! (see here).

Doug_McAdam from Moorland ForumInterestingly, in a comment made on Mark Avery’s blog today, SLE Chief Executive Doug McAdam claims, “…..a range of partners, Scottish Land and Estates included, invest a significant amount of time and resource into working with and through PAW Scotland to help achieve this [eradication of golden eagle persecution], not just for golden eagles though, but all wildlife crime” (see here for his full comment).

So what, exactly, has SLE done about the continuing issue of alleged and confirmed illegal raptor persecution on Leadhills Estate? We’ve asked this time and time again but the question is just met with silence every time.

We’re not sure that Leadhills Estate is a member of SLE, although given that the owner of Leadhills Estate (Lord Hopetoun) also just happens to be a Board member of SLE, it would be quite strange if Leadhills Estate wasn’t an SLE member. Why doesn’t SLE publicly condemn the crimes that are alleged and confirmed at Leadhills Estate? If Leadhills Estate is an SLE member, why hasn’t SLE kicked them out, just as they did with Glasserton Estate earlier this year following the conviction of their gamekeeper (see here). McAdam may argue that nothing has been proven at Leadhills in relation to the latest discovery (in terms of a legal evidential link) and that would be accurate, but there is a long, long, long, long list of alleged and confirmed incidents from this estate, dating back decades (see here), several of which have resulted in criminal convictions.

It seems to us that SLE is repeatedly turning a blind eye to reported activities on this estate that the rest of us can see very clearly. Why would they do that if they’re so keen to eradicate raptor persecution?


Benyon given the boot

richard-benyonSome good news! Dick Bunion Richard Benyon MP, the DEFRA minister, has been booted out in today’s Government reshuffle. He now returns to the back benches, presumably with more time to pursue his blood sports interests on his grouse moor in Scotland and his pheasant shoot estate in Berkshire.

Benyon had been in post at DEFRA for just over three years, with special responsibility for biodiversity and the natural environment, amongst other things (see here).

He is best known to us for being in office when a buzzard ‘management’ trial was sanctioned in 2012 (see here) which DEFRA almost got away with until public opinion forced a speedy government u-turn (see here).

Benyon also refused to criminalise the possession of the banned poison Carbofuran in England (see here) and didn’t see the need to introduce vicarious liability in England, but instead applauded gamekeepers “for the wonderful work they do in providing excellent biodiversity across our countryside” (see here).

Good riddance, Dick.


Why we don’t trust the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation

ngoA few days ago, Charles Nodder, Political Advisor to the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO), wrote on this blog:

You should regard us [the NGO] as a key part of the solution [to stamping out illegal raptor persecution], not part of the problem. An organisation to be supported, not attacked”.

The thing is, in order to support an organisation there first needs to be a level of trust. It’s very hard for us to trust the NGO, and here’s why…

Until recently, we were under the impression (mistakenly, as it turns out) that the NGO wouldn’t tolerate any illegal gamekeeping activity and if any of their members were convicted of such an offence, they would be expelled from the organisation. This is what the NGO wants us all to believe, as outlined in their own Disciplinary Code, as published on their website.

However, it would now appear that the NGO does, in our opinion, tolerate some illegal gamekeeping activity. This has only come to light because we discovered that the NGO member who has been applying for licences to kill buzzards (and now sparrowhawks too) was recently convicted for being in possession of several banned poisons, including Carbofuran, the most common poison used to illegally kill birds of prey. We have now discovered that the NGO member, who we have called Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant, was not booted out of the NGO following his conviction for a wildlife crime that is closely linked with the illegal poisoning of birds of prey. Not only was he not booted out, but the NGO then actively supported this member by helping him to apply for his buzzard and sparrowhawk-killing licences.

When challenged about this, Mr Nodder provided some fascinating responses on this blog (see here). Before we take a closer look at those responses, we would first like to acknowledge Mr Nodder’s willingness to engage in conversation on this blog. That’s to his credit; there are many others within the game-shooting industry who have repeatedly refused to engage with us, citing excuses such as, “We don’t communicate with anonymous individuals” but who then go on to complain that we publish articles without giving them the right to reply!! Quite an astonishing response given today’s world of multi-media and social networking communications. A missed opportunity for them, but not really that surprising when you consider that many of them are still hanging on to other 19th Century ideals.

Anyway, back to that NGO policy of supposedly not tolerating any illegal gamekeeping activity.

To begin with, Mr Nodder tried to claim that “The possession of a banned substance [and remember we’re talking here about banned poisons that are routinely used to illegally poison wildlife] is quite clearly a possession offence and not an offence against wildlife”. We were astounded by this comment. There are many, many examples of ‘possession’ offences that are inextricably linked to wildlife crime. Here are just a few examples:

  • Possession of a dead red kite (see James Rolfe case).
  • Possession of 10.5kg of the banned poison Carbofuran (see Dean Barr case).
  • Possession of the banned poison Carbofuran (see Cyril McLachlan case).
  • Possession of wild birds eggs (see Matthew Gonshaw cases).
  • Possession of an illegal pole trap (see Ivan Crane case).
  • Possession of a wild bird (see Craig Barrie case).
  • Possession of live & dead birds for trade/taxidermy (see Gary McPhail case).
  • Possession of the banned poison Alphachloralose (see David Whitefield case).
  • Possession of the banned poison Carbofuran (see Tom McKellar case).
  • Possession of wild birds (see Cogoo Sherman Bowen case).
  • Possession of the banned poisons Carbofuran, Strychnine and Alphachloralose (see Peter Bell case).
  • Possession of wild birds eggs (see Keith Liddell case).
  • Possession of the banned poison Sodium Cyanide (see William Scobie case).
  • Possession of dead wild birds (see Luke Byrne case).
  • Possession of the banned poisons Carbofuran and Alphachloralose (see Graham Kerr case).

In many of these example cases, poisoned and/or other illegally killed raptors were also discovered. Indeed, in many cases it is the discovery of these poisoned animals that then leads on to a police investigation and search that then leads to the discovery of a stash of banned poisons. Quite often, as we all know, the subsequent charges that are brought do not often include charges for actually poisoning the wildlife, but instead the charges relate to the ‘lesser’ (in legal terms) offence of ‘possession’, either due to plea bargaining or due to lack of evidence needed to secure a conviction for the actual poisoning of a wild animal. It stands to reason that the actual poisoning of wildlife is inextricably linked to the possession of banned poisons; in order to poison wildlife, the criminal obviously first has to be in possession of the poison to carry out the act of poisoning.

The National Wildlife Crime Unit defines the possession of a banned poison as a wildlife crime – the Unit often publicises convictions for the possession of banned poisons in its reports. The Scottish Government also defines convictions for possession of banned poisons as wildlife crime – indeed, this is one of the offences that can trigger a prosecution under the new vicarious liability legislation, brought in specifically to address the continuing illegal persecution of raptors. The Crown Office considers possession of banned poisons as a wildlife crime because its specialist wildlife prosecutors take on these cases. The Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW, of which the NGO boasts membership) also considers possession of banned poisons a wildlife crime – they, too, publicise ‘possession’ convictions in their newsletters.

So why is it that the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation doesn’t accept possession of banned poisons as a wildlife crime? And if they don’t, why the hell are they allowed to participate in the Raptor Persecution Wildlife Crime Priority Group? Surely that group has been established to find ways of stamping out illegal raptor persecution, but how can it achieve that if one organisational member refuses to expel members who have been convicted of a serious wildlife crime? It makes a mockery of the whole group and does absolutely nothing to instill public confidence in the sincerity of the process.

approvedMr Nodder’s next explanation for why Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant wasn’t booted out of the NGO was to suggest that possession of a banned poison was not a ‘gamekeeping activity’. On the contrary, if Mr Nodder took the time to look at the conviction statistics (publicly available to those who want to look) he would notice that the significant majority of those convicted for possession of banned poisons are gamekeepers, and that trend has continued for many years. In the case of Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant, his stashes of banned poisons were found in his work vehicle and inside one of his pheasant pens. There’s simply no denying it, unless of course you happen to be the NGO, trying to justify why you haven’t stuck to your stated Disciplinary Code and expelled a member for his criminal conviction.

And what sort of message does this policy send to other NGO members? ‘Don’t worry if you get caught in possession of banned poisons, we won’t kick you out of the club’. It makes you wonder what the law-abiding members of the NGO feel about this policy. If you were a law-abiding member (and there must be some, surely), would you want to be a member of a group that welcomed those with a criminal conviction related to banned poisons? If the NGO doesn’t distinguish between criminal and law-abiding members, why should we?

The third argument Mr Nodder used to try and get us to drop what must be quite embarrassing questions was to pull out the old ‘It’s a spent conviction so we can’t discuss it’ routine. Nice try, but in this case, wholly inapplicable. The legislation that prevents publication of so-called ‘spent convictions’ is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (see here for a good explanation). Its basic premise is that after a period of x years of rehabilitation (depending on the type of crime committed – in this case, five years), the conviction can be ignored and need not be divulged (with one or two exceptions). If somebody does then publish information about the conviction, they may be subject to libel damages, but only if the primary motive of publishing the information was malicious. In this case, seeing as though we haven’t named Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant, even though we’ve had lots of opportunity to do so (and indeed our own received legal advice was that we could name him), it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to demonstrate that we are acting in malice (against him as an individual) by discussing his spent conviction because he hasn’t been identified as a named individual. Our primary motive for discussing this case has been to (a) examine the Natural England/DEFRA policy that allows convicted wildlife criminals to apply for licences to kill protected species (see earlier blogs on this), and (b) to examine the sincerity of the NGO’s claims that they won’t tolerate any illegal gamekeeping activity and will expel any member with such a conviction.

And while we’re on the subject of the Rehab of Offenders Act, we’ve made a very interesting observation. Certain professions are exempt from the Act, so that individuals are not allowed to withhold details of previous convictions in relation to job applications. These professions include teachers, social workers, doctors, dentists, vets, accountants etc. But interestingly, also included are “Employees of the RSPCA or SSPCA whose duties extend to the humane killing of animals”. Now then, it is beyond question that the duties of gamekeepers ‘extend to the humane killing of animals’. They probably kill (legitimately) more animals on a daily basis than all the RSPCA and SSPCA employees put together. So why are gamekeepers not included in this list of exemptions? Why should a gamekeeper be able to hide past wildlife crime convictions but an RSPCA/SSPCA employee cannot? That’s a question for the policy makers…

In summary then, in our opinion the NGO’s stated claim that they don’t tolerate any illegal gamekeeping activity is not convincing. They don’t view the possession of a banned poison as a wildlife crime and a conviction for possession of a banned poison is not enough to warrant expulsion from the NGO, even when that poison just happens to be the most commonly used substance to illegally kill birds of prey. It doesn’t matter to us how many wildlife crime groups the NGO has joined – in our view this is just a convenient shield for hiding true intentions – we don’t trust them and will continue to view them with suspicion until they start to back up their stated claims with convincing actions.


Buzzard licence applicant tries for four more licences

S44-477413The #Buzzardgate saga continues. Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant (the one who successfully applied for licences to destroy buzzard nests and eggs to protect pheasants earlier this year – see here) has applied for four more licences, this time to kill (by trapping and shooting) 16 buzzards and three sparrowhawks.

The details of these latest applications (well, heavily-redacted versions) have only been revealed after the RSPB again applied under FoI for the information from Natural England. The RSPB’s Conservation Director, Martin Harper, has published these redacted applications and has written a good blog about them (see here). Well done to the RSPB, and particularly to Jeff Knott (who wrote the FoI requests) and to Martin for publishing the results.

This time, Natural England rejected all four applications.

There are a number of issues that are a cause for serious concern, not least the secrecy of the full application material – given the huge public interest in this issue, and the potential for setting precedents that would allow other licences to be issued, the details should be available for public interest and scrutiny, not redacted under heavy black ink. Martin writes eloquently about this in his blog.

But what interests us the most is the involvement, again, of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO). The latest licence applications were again made by the NGO “on behalf of our member”. We have blogged extensively about Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant and our strong suspicions that he has a recent conviction for possession of banned poisons, including the gamekeepers’ so-called ‘poison of choice’ – Carbofuran (e.g. see here).

Why do we have these suspicions? Well, we know Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant’s real name, and we know that someone with the same name, working as a gamekeeper, in the same region, was convicted for possession of banned poisons. There is a very slim chance, of course, that it is purely a coincidence that Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant shares the same name, occupation and location as the convicted criminal, but there is also every chance that these two people are one and the same.

According to the NGO’s disciplinary policy (available on their website, see here), they ‘automatically condemn any illegal gamekeeping practice’ and ‘In circumstances where an NGO member is convicted in court of a wildlife crime, that person’s membership will automatically be suspended forthwith, pending the decision of the NGO National Committee. The National Committee will at its next meeting decide, in the light of the court’s findings,…..whether the suspended member shall be expelled or re-admitted”. We and many of you (thank you) emailed the NGO after the first buzzard licence had been issued, seeking clarification about whether Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant was a member of the NGO or whether he had ever been previously suspended. The NGO responded with complete silence.

A few days ago, the NGO’s Political and PR Advisor, Charles Nodder, wrote a comment on this blog concerning another convicted gamekeeper (Andrew Knights). Mr Nodder wrote to advise us that he could find no record of Andrew Knights ever being a member of the NGO (see here). We again asked Mr Nodder for clarification about whether Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant had a previous conviction for wildlife crime and if so, how that fitted in with the NGO’s claimed stance of zero tolerance of illegal acts?

Mr Nodder replied: “Sorry but I am not sure what you are getting at here. The NGO is for best practice and against law-breaking. Is that not clear? Please understand that not all people calling themselves ‘gamekeepers’ are members of the NGO.

This website is implacably against raptor persecution and so too is the NGO. We are members of the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime and active participants in the Raptor Persecution Wildlife Crime Priority Group. We supported and publicised the official maps produced earlier this year showing where birds of prey had been confirmed poisoned.

So far as I know, only two members of the NGO (out of 16,000) have ever been convicted of crimes against raptors have both been publicly condemned on conviction and chucked out. The organisation’s disciplinary policy and unequivocal statement opposing raptor persecution are on the NGO website.

The NGO, and the firm stance it is taking on this subject, can probably achieve more in cleaning up game management practice and encouraging people to follow legal routes than any amount of sniping from the sidelines. You should regard us as a key part of the solution, not part of the problem. An organisation to be supported, not attacked.

And on the buzzard licence applicant, we cannot comment on spent convictions any more than you but I can assure you that he has never been convicted of any crime against wildlife”.

It would seem Mr Nodder has chosen his words carefully, but not carefully enough. You see, possession of banned poisons IS considered a wildife crime and in England, this crime can be prosecuted under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Or perhaps the NGO don’t consider the illegal possession of banned poisons (usually used to illegally poison wildlife) a legitimate wildlife crime?

So, back to the same question. Is the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation harbouring a convicted criminal amongst its membership? And if so, why is the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation allowed to serve on various wildlife crime committees (e.g. PAW and the Raptor Persecution Wildlife Crime Priority Group)? The legitimate members of these committees should be asking the NGO for clarification and transparency on this issue.

What’s the point of sitting around a table to discuss ways to resolve raptor persecution crime if one of those groups is representing someone with a conviction for wildlife crime? Come on RSPB and the other members of the Raptor Persecution Wildlife Crime Priority Group, ask them the bloody question!

We can also ask them the question: Email to – and

Dear Charles Nodder/NGO, does Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant, an NGO member whose application to kill buzzards and sparrowhawks you are supporting, have a previous conviction for possession of banned poisons? If so, how does this fit in with the NGO policy of zero tolerance of illegal gamekeeping activities? Thanks.

By the way, we’re still waiting for a response from the Information Commissioner about whether Natural England can refuse to release the name of Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant because they believe it’s in the public interest to keep it secret (see here). We’ll report on that when we’ve had a response.


Irish Game Council condemns latest red kite poisoning

NARGC,%20logoFollowing on from Thursday’s news that yet another red kite has been illegally poisoned in the Irish Republic (see here), the country’s largest game shooting organisation, the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC) has once again issued a strong statement of condemnation.

NARGC Director Des Crofton’s statement can be read in full here.

This isn’t the first time that Des Crofton has spoken out against the illegal persecution of raptors. Back in January, the NARGC issued an unequivocal condemnation of the illegal shooting of a buzzard (see here).

We’re still waiting to see the same consistent level of leadership and zero tolerance of illegal persecution from Scottish and English game shooting groups.

For example, we note with interest the comments earlier this week from the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation in England regarding the potential criminal background of this year’s buzzard licence applicant. We strongly suspect that the applicant had a very recent conviction for possession of illegal pesticides, including the gamekeepers’ poison of choice, Carbofuran. NGO spokesman Charles Nodder commented on this blog (see here) to say that the NGO “strongly condemns illegal acts“. When asked to clarify whether the buzzard licence applicant had a conviction for possession of banned poisons, Mr Nodder went strangely quiet. Would you expect an organisation that claims to ‘strongly condemn illegal acts’  to support someone with a conviction for the illegal possession of banned poisons?


Red kite poisoned N Yorkshire: police appeal 11 months later

RK Mali HallsNorth Yorkshire Police are appealing for information 11 months after a red kite was found poisoned in Tadcaster. The RSPB has also put up a £1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and charge.

The dead bird (a three-year old believed to have been part of a breeding pair) was discovered by a member of the public at Toulston Polo Ground in October 2012. Toxicology results have revealed the bird had been poisoned with Carbofuran.

On the face of it, this looks like another farcical mishandling of a raptor persecution crime by the police, with an exceptionally long delay between the discovery of the victim and an appeal for information. However, rumours from colleagues in Yorkshire suggest that the initial testing (post-mortem) was not straightforward, leading to a prolonged delay. It is also rumoured that the bird was eventually submitted for toxicology analysis under a private submission co-funded by the Yorkshire Kite Group and the RSPB, leading to the detection of the banned poison Carbofuran.

The bird is believed to be the 20th poisoned red kite reported in North Yorkshire since 2000.

North Yorkshire police press release here

Red Kite photo by Mali Halls


Ireland publishes its first persecution report, with interesting results

94f6f996ec3a866ce6d587d28bd5b809_LThe Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has published its first national raptor persecution report, relating to reported incidents in 2011.

The NPWS issued the following press release:

“33 poisoning or persecution incidents affecting birds of prey were recorded in Ireland in 2011, according to a report published today by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 

15 birds of prey were confirmed poisoned, and four more suspected cases were recorded. 8 birds of prey were shot.

Some of the deaths were accidental, but many were deliberate. The most frequent casualty was the red kite, a native species that was recently re-introduced to Ireland. It is believed that seven of the ten kites found dead were poisoned by eating rats that had themselves been poisoned. As well as red kite, other raptor species that were deliberately targeted included peregrine falcon, buzzard, sparrowhawk, and kestrel.

The report is the result of cooperation between the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine’s Regional Veterinary Laboratories and the State Laboratory, and also involves An Garda Síochána, the Golden Eagle Trust and BirdWatch Ireland. 

The report notes that the use of tracking devices on birds has enabled dead birds to be found, but this also means that the true levels of mortality are likely to be significantly higher.

The use of poison has been greatly restricted under EU law in recent years. It is illegal to poison any animal or birds other than rats, mice or rabbits in Ireland and only then using certain registered products. The Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use has recently been set up with funding from industry. This campaign aims to promote best practice so that rat poison in particular should not get into the wildlife food chain where it harms owls, kites and other birds of prey.

The poisoning of golden and white-tailed sea eagles has been a particular problem in recent years, but fortunately in 2011, no poisonings were recorded. Records of poisoning and persecution in 2012 are currently being analysed and the second annual report is due for release shortly.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr Jimmy Deenihan, T.D., welcomed the report. ”This gives us at least a partial view of the scale of the problem in Ireland”, he said. ”It is simply not acceptable for majestic birds of prey and other wildlife to be persecuted or poisoned. First it is illegal, but just as important it harms our reputation as a clean, green country. I would urge anyone to report such incidents to the National Parks and Wildlife Service in my Department. There are alternatives to poison which can be successfully used when control is essential ” he said.”

Here is a copy of the report: Persecution Report Ireland 2011

The publication of this report, and the anticipated future annual reports, demonstrates a basic but very important step forward, allowing the authorities and NGOs to monitor and record raptor persecution incidents in a coordinated effort, to help tackle the issue as well as to improve public awareness and education.

The report includes the usual list of victims and the substances that were used to kill them (Alphachloralose, Carbofuran etc) although we did notice one particular substance that was less familiar – Nitroxynil (also called Nitroxinil). As far as we understand, Nitroxynil is an active ingredient in the veterinary treatment of cattle and sheep, for example in sheep dips. According to this report, Nitroxynil  was detected in the carcases of three poisoned white-tailed eagles and one golden eagle, as well as in several recovered baits, including an egg and two lagomorphs (rabbit or hare).

It would appear, given that it was detected in different baits, that Nitroxynil has been used deliberately in Ireland to target any animal that might scavenge from a bait. It’s also possible that some of the deaths were from accidental poisoning, although fallen stock should not be left out on the hill.

We’re not certain, but we don’t recall seeing Nitroxynil listed in any recent toxicology reports published in Scotland by SASA. We don’t know if SASA tests for this substance when they’re presented with a potentially poisoned animal – it would be fair to say that SASA can’t test for every known poison due to resource constraints, and it’s reasonable for them just to test for the more commonly-used poisons. However, we have noticed in recent SASA reports that there are quite a number of birds for which SASA have been unable to establish the cause of death (i.e. the poisons they regularly screen for have not been detected) even though the circumstances of the bird’s death may have been suspicious. If SASA are not already testing for Nitroxynil, we hope that they pay attention to the frequency of detection in Irish cases and consider including it in the list of poisons for which they routinely screen.

Well done to the Irish NPWS and their project partners for getting this report published.

In Scotland we’re still waiting for the promised 2012 wildlife crime report from the Scottish Government. Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse told the Police Wildlife Crime Conference in March 2013 that his staff were working on the report. Earlier this month, we asked him if he could tell us when we might expect to see it published (see here). According to our calendar (he has to respond within 20 working days), Mr Wheelhouse is due to provide a response to that question, and the other questions we posed, by this coming Wednesday…..

UPDATE 29th July: SASA are on the ball – they’ve recently started to test for Nitroxynil – see here.


Red kite poisoned in Scotland

rk5And so it continues….

Today, the Scottish Government agency responsible for reporting on poisoned animals released the stats for the first quarter of this year (i.e. Jan-March 2013).

You will not be surprised to learn that, yet again, poisoning incidents have taken place and Police Scotland have chosen to suppress the information.

The data confirm that a poisoned red kite was discovered in March in ‘Central Scotland’ – no detailed location information given, naturally. Lab tests show it had been poisoned with Mevinphos. Four months for that information to slip out in a largely un-read government report. The level of secrecy involved in these cases is quite remarkable.

The data also show the poisoned baits that were uncovered at Leadhills in March – interestingly, they confirm the presence of Carbofuran but don’t comment on the number of baits found (which we know was a considerable number – see here) but they do say the baits were found inside gamebags. Four months on from the discovery and we’re still waiting for Police Scotland to make a public statement, not least to warn residents and visitors about the discovery of potentially fatal poison in a publicly-accessible location.

Also included in the data is the discovery of a Carbofuran-laced pigeon bait in Tayside in February 2013. Again, where was/is the public warning from Police Scotland?

It’s just bloody pathetic. Don’t tell us that the information has been suppressed for ‘operational’ reasons – that’s totally ridiculous and isn’t fooling anyone. The suppression of information benefits the landowners and gamekeepers – nobody else.

Compare this suppression of information with the work of Police Wildlife Crime Officers in Devon & Cornwall. Two of their WCOs – PC Josh Marshall and PC Paul Freestone – are so amazingly proactive that as well as having their own personal wildlife crime blogs (here and here), they’ve even set up a Wildlife Crime Group blog for their area (see here). On this blog, you’ll find information providing tips and advice about different types of wildlife crime, as well as information about specific alleged offences. For example, here they report on the recent suspected poisoning of two buzzards, and even provide photographs – all within a few days of the alleged crime being reported. Hats off to those two guys – committed, proactive, helpful and informative (although if you’re reading this Josh & Paul, you might want to revise your information about potential threats to harriers!!).

Back to Scotland….we would like to know why Police Scotland consistently fails to inform the public about alleged raptor persecution incidents, especially those involving the discovery of highly dangerous banned poisons in public areas. The public has a right to be kept informed. Sure, the Police may need a few weeks to conduct their initial investigations without letting on what they’re up to – as we’ve said over and over and over again, nobody in their right mind would want to interfere with that process and jeopardise a potential prosecution - but when it gets to three, four, five months after the incident and its bloody obvious that the investigation is dead in the water, then what possible reason is there for withholding the information, putting the lives of people and animals at risk? Here are some reasons: wanting to appease the landowners and gamekeepers on whose land the poison had been found, and wanting to appease the wider gameshooting industry who just hate to have the truth exposed about poisoning and the other methods of persecution that are being used against raptors on a regular basis.

If you’re also curious about the blanket suppression of information, you could always email the new Police Scotland Wildlife Crime Portfolio Leader, Detective Superintendent Cameron Cavin, and ask him to explain. One question to ask, as a friendly opener, nothing more, might be whether he has ever held membership in a game-shooting organisation, like, ooh, er, let’s say BASC for example, and if so, whether that membership is still held?…. Coincidentally, Det. Super. Cavin also just happens to have strong connections with central Scotland so he might also have information about the progress of the case concerning the poisoned red kite found there in March, or perhaps about the buzzard found there in March that had been caught in an illegal trap and had to be euthanised as a result of its injuries (see here). Bear in mind if you do email him, he’s obliged to reply within 20 working days so he can’t just ignore you, although obviously he can choose to fob you off without providing a satisfactory answer.



27 eagles, 7 years, 0 prosecutions

Last September we wrote an article called ’26 eagles, 6 years, 0 prosecutions’ (see here). We thought it was time to update it and it’s now called: ’27 eagles, 7 years, 0 prosecutions’.

Why update it now? Well mostly in response to Paul Wheelhouse’s comment yesterday that the Scottish Government “has achieved much since 2007” in relation to tackling illegal raptor persecution. Yes, ‘much’ has been achieved in terms of forming new committees and partnerships and having meetings and publishing soundbites, but what has actually been achieved on the ground, where it matters? According to the following list, absolutely bloody nothing.

As previously stated, some of these eagles on this list are just ‘missing’ and may not be dead, although the frequency with which these sat-tagged eagles are going ‘missing’ is indicative of something more sinister, of that there’s no more doubt. It’s also reasonable to point out that there may be (probably will be) a hell of a lot of other eagles that we haven’t included in this list because we just don’t know about them. We only see the tip of a very very large iceberg, as is becoming clearer to everyone by the day.

It’s also worth pointing out that if Scottish Land & Estates and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association had their way, we wouldn’t be able to report on any of these cases because presumably the police are still investigating them all. I can’t for the life of me think why those two organisations would prefer this information was kept secret.

_41773232_goldeneagle203MAY 2006: A dead adult golden eagle was found on the Dinnet & Kinord Estate, near Ballater, Aberdeenshire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Grampian Police launched an investigation. Seven years and 2 months later, nobody has been prosecuted.


Dead GE_DaveDickJUNE 2006: A dead golden eagle was found on Glen Feshie Estate in the Cairngorms. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary launched an investigation. Seven years and 1 month later, nobody has been prosecuted.




eagle-poisonedAUGUST 2007: A dead adult female golden eagle was found on an estate near Peebles in the Borders. She was half of the last known breeding pair of golden eagles in the region. Tests revealed she had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Lothian & Borders Police launched an investigation. Five years and 11 months later, nobody has been prosecuted.



bird-nAUTUMN 2007: Tayside Police received a detailed tip-off that a young male white-tailed eagle (known as ‘Bird N’) had allegedly been shot on an estate in Angus. The timing and location included in the tip-off coincided with the timing and location of the last-known radio signal of this bird. Five and a half years later, the bird has not been seen again. With no body, an investigation isn’t possible.

white_tailed_eagle_dead_rspb@body2MAY 2008: A one year old male white-tailed eagle hatched on Mull in 2007 and known as ‘White G’ was found dead on the Glenquoich Estate, Angus. Tests revealed he had been poisoned by an unusual concoction of pesticides that included Carbofuran, Bendiocarb and Isofenphos. A police search in the area also revealed a poisoned buzzard, a baited mountain hare and 32 pieces of poisoned venison baits placed on top of fenceposts on the neighbouring Glenogil Estate. Laboratory tests revealed the baited mountain hare and the 32 poisoned venison baits contained the same unusual concoction of highly toxic chemicals that had killed the white-tailed eagle, ‘White G’. Five years and 2 months later, nobody has been prosecuted.

glen orchyJUNE 2009: An adult golden eagle was found dead at Glen Orchy, Argyll, close to the West Highland Way. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Strathclyde Police launched a multi-agency investigation. Three years and 3 months later, estate employee Tom McKellar pled guilty to possession of Carbofuran stored in premises at Auch Estate, Bridge of Orchy and he was fined £1,200. Nobody has been prosecuted for poisoning the golden eagle.

Alma Millden 2009JULY 2009: A two year old female golden eagle known as ‘Alma’ was found dead on the Millden Estate, Angus. Tests revealed she had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Alma was a well-known eagle  – born on the Glen Feshie Estate in 2007, she was being satellite-tracked and her movements followed by the general public on the internet. Tayside Police launched an investigation. Four years later, nobody has been prosecuted.

TH1_17220118eagle glen ogilAUGUST 2009: A young white-tailed eagle was found dead on Glenogil Estate, Angus. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Tayside Police were criticized in the national press for not releasing a press statement about this incident until January 2010. Three years and 11 months later, nobody has been prosecuted.

Skibo eagle 2010MAY 2010: Three dead golden eagles were found on or close to Skibo Estate, Sutherland. Tests revealed they had been poisoned; two with Carbofuran and one with Aldicarb. Northern Constabulary launched a multi-agency investigation. One year later (May 2011), Sporting Manager Dean Barr pled guilty to possession of 10.5 kg of Carbofuran stored in premises at Skibo Estate. Three years and 2 months later, nobody has been prosecuted for poisoning the three golden eagles.

244JUNE 2010: Leg rings with unique identification numbers that had previously been fitted to the legs of four young golden eagles in nests across Scotland were found in the possession of gamekeeper James Rolfe, during a multi-agency investigation into alleged raptor persecution at Moy Estate, near Inverness. It is not clear how he came to be in possession of the rings. The bodies of the eagles from which the rings had been removed were not found. No further action was taken in relation to the discovery.

wtefarr2010JUNE 2010: A golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle were found dead on Farr & Kyllachy Estate, Inverness-shire. Tests revealed they had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary apparently did not search the property until July 2011. Three years and 1 month later, nobody has been prosecuted.

LochindorbDECEMBER 2010: A decomposing carcass of a white-tailed eagle was found and photographed on Logie (Lochindorb) Estate, Morayshire. It was reported to Northern Constabulary. By the time the police arrived to collect it, the carcass had disappeared. The police said they couldn’t investigate further without the body.

247135-police-operation-after-golden-eagle-poisoned-with-illegal-pesticide-410x230MARCH 2011: The body of a young golden eagle was discovered on North Glenbuchat Estate, Aberdeenshire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Grampian Police launched an investigation and raided the property in May 2011. Two years and 4 months later, we are not aware of any pending prosecutions.

wtseAPRIL 2011: The body of a white-tailed eagle was found at the base of cliffs on Skye. The person who discovered it (a professional medic) considered it to have been freshly shot with a rifle, decapitated with a sharp implement and thrown from the cliff top. He took photographs and alerted Northern Constabulary and RSPB. There was a delay of two weeks before the now probably decomposed carcass was collected. A post-mortem was inconclusive. This incident was not made public until one year later after a tip off to this blog. Two years and 3 months later, we are not aware of any pending prosecutions.

ge headNOVEMBER 2011: The signal from a satellite-tracked young golden eagle (hatched in 2010) stopped functioning when she was at a location in the Monadhliaths, a well-known raptor persecution black spot in the Highlands. Her last known location was checked by researchers but there was no sign of the bird. Another technical malfunction of a satellite transmitter or another ‘disappearance’ in suspicious circumstances?

Lochaber poisoned ge March 2012MARCH 2012: The body of a young golden eagle being tracked by satellite was discovered in Lochaber. Tests revealed it had been poisoned with the banned pesticides Aldicarb and Bendiocarb. Information about this incident was not made public until three months later. One year and 4 months later,  we are not aware of any prosecutions for poisoning this bird.


ge headMARCH 2012: The signal from a satellite-tracked young golden eagle (hatched in 2011) stopped functioning when the bird was in the eastern glens, a well-known raptor persecution blackspot. Another technical malfunction of a satellite transmitter or another ‘disappearance’ in suspicious circumstances?


May2012 GE tayside grampianMAY 2012: The dead body of a young satellite-tracked golden eagle (hatched in 2011) was discovered near a lay-by in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire. The data from its satellite tag & the injuries the bird had when found (2 broken legs) suggested it had been caught in an illegal trap in the Angus glens and then removed, under cover of darkness, to be dumped in another area where it was left to die, probably a slow and agonising death. Information on this incident was not released until almost five months later, by the RSPB. It appears the police failed to properly investigate this incident as we understand that no search warrants were issued. One year and 2 months later, we are not aware of any pending prosecutions for killing this bird.

ge headMAY/JUNE 2012: The signal from a young satellite-tracked golden eagle stopped functioning when the bird was north-east of the Cairngorms National Park. Another technical malfunction of a satellite transmitter or another ‘disappearance’ in suspicious circumstances?


optableOCTOBER 2012: An adult golden eagle was found shot and critically injured on grouse moor at Buccleuch Estate, near Wanlockhead, South Lanarkshire. The bird was rescued by the SSPCA and underwent surgery but it eventually succumbed to its injuries in April 2013. Nine months later, we’re not aware of any pending prosecutions for shooting this bird.


ge headMAY 2013: The signal from a two-year-old satellite tracked golden eagle stopped functioning after it’s last signal from North Glenbuchat Estate in Aberdeenshire. Another technical malfunction of a satellite transmitter or another ‘disappearance’ in suspicious circumstances?


Another sat-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’ in Aberdeenshire

mysteryWell would you believe it. Another young satellite-tagged golden eagle has mysteriously ‘disappeared’.

This time it’s a two-year-old bird called ‘Angus 33′, being sat-tracked by Roy Dennis (see here). The bird’s last known signal came from the North Glenbuchat Estate on 13th May 2013. A search was undertaken but nothing was found.

Naturally, there’s no evidence to demonstrate the eagle has been illegally killed, it’s just vanished into thin air in the same area that several other sat-tagged golden eagles have ‘disappeared’ in recent years. What a bloody mystery, eh?

Further mysteries from here include who used Carbofuran to poison a young golden eagle found in March 2011 (here), who used Carbofuran to poison a buzzard found in May 2011 (here, p.9) and who shot the short-eared owl that was found stuffed under a rock in May 2011 (here, p.6 & p.14)?

The Headkeeper of this estate was convicted of poisoning offences in 2006 (see here).

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