The winner of this year’s Young Gamekeeper of the Year Award, as selected by the Scottish Gamekeeper’s Association, is 20-year old Graeme Dunlop, whose beat is the 14,000-acre North Drynachan Moor on Cawdor Estate near Nairn. Graeme stated in a post-award interview that he was, “Worried that the occasional discovery of poisoned birds is undermining all the political work being done by the SGA. We all know there’s no need for it in this day and age because there’s a place for everything. Nature will sort itself out.” If Graeme is serious in his condemnation of raptor persecution he is certainly in the right place to make a difference.
Cawdor Estate has been plagued with accusations about the persecution of birds of prey and cruelty to animals (none of which have been proven), and has been labeled as “an ecological desert”.
1992: A buzzard, magpie and sheep all laced with Strychnine are discovered on the Estate. 1993: A buzzard poisoned by the toxin Alphachloralose, found on Forestry Commission land 100 metres from the boundary of Cawdor Estate. 1994: Three buzzards and rabbit bait found poisoned by Alphachloralose on Cawdor. 1996: Three baits discovered containing poisons found on Cawdor: a hare laced with Alphachloralose, a goat with Aldicarb and a widgeon with Strychnine. 1996: A hidden pit containing suspected birds of prey poisoning kit uncovered by investigators three miles from Cawdor Castle. 1999: A report sent to the procurator fiscal alleging that mountain hares were illegally persecuted in snares on Cawdor Estate. 2000: A second report submitted to the fiscal claiming mistreatment of hares on Cawdor Estate. 2001: A dead golden eagle found on Cawdor Estate confirmed to contain the lethal poison Carbofuran. Naturally, no prosecutions ever resulted for any of these alleged offences.
In 1992, Cawdor Estate’s Sporting Manager was charged with wildlife offences. These related to the improper use of snares and allegations of cruelty involving hares. Charges were later dropped by the procurator fiscal due to “evidential difficulties”.
The award is presented by the Scottish Gamekeeper’s Association whose chairman, Alex Hogg, is no stranger to readers of this blog. On one hand Alex is a proud member of PAW (Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime) and publicly states that he and the SGA abhor the illegal persecution of raptors. On the other hand Alex has been making applications for licences to kill raptors to the Scottish Government for years now, all of which have been rejected. Alex’s simplistic view is, Scotland has a problem with illegal raptor persecution so legalise it and the problem disappears. Genius!
The award was presented at the Highland Field Sports Fair held at Moy Estate last weekend. Moy Estate is where two men have recently been charged with wildlife and firearms offences following the discovery of several dead raptors in suspicious circumstances.
Also attending the fair at Moy last weekend was The Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA). This is the group that organised the letter signed by numerous Scottish estates to Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham, condemning the illegal poisoning of wildlife in Scotland. This letter turned out to be rather embarrassing when we revealed that several of the estates had past convictions for wildlife crimes, or indeed were being currently investigated for them – Moy Estate falling into the latter category.
Yet still we hear the repeated claims from SGA and SRPBA that they are doing all they can to stop raptor persecution by eliminating the ‘rogue’ members who continue this disgusting tradition. How does attending this fair on Moy Estate translate as ‘doing all they can’? I trust their bed-fellows involved with the PAW Scotland group will be asking the very same question.
We wish Graeme the very best of luck and hope that he can use his award to influence and educate others in the industry about the illegality of raptor persecution.
For the SGA press release about the award: http://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/content/young-gamekeeper-year-announced