27
Feb
12

SGA says that raptor workers could be laundering eggs & chicks

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association is clearly on the ropes as the mounting body of evidence showing criminal gamekeeper activity gains more and more public attention. One of the SGA’s regular spokesmen, the perenially entertaining Bert Burnett, has now suggested that raptor fieldworkers could be taking raptor eggs and chicks from nests, to launder them on the black market! It’s a bit like saying Greenpeace activists could be harpooning whales to sell to the Japanese, or that the RSPCA could be collecting stray dogs to sell the meat and skins to the Chinese. All possible, of course, but all as improbable as Bert becoming Head of MENSA.

In his latest message to the SGA membership, he also suggests that if licenced raptor workers don’t give prior notice to the gamekeeper of their intended visit, they are not following ‘good practice’. This is, of course, totally incorrect, as all licensed raptor fieldworkers in Scotland already know. The ‘good practice guide’ used by Scotland’s raptor workers (which incidentally is endorsed by SNH) does not say that raptor fieldworkers need to provide advance warning of their intention to visit any raptor site.  Indeed, under the Land Reform Act (Scotland) 2003, volunteer raptor surveyors have a statutory right of access, just as any other member of the public. The difference between a raptor fieldworker and any other member of the public is that the raptor worker will have a Schedule 1 Disturbance Licence, issued annually by SNH, permitting them to visit the nests of certain protected species. Possession of this licence indicates that the raptor fieldworker is suitably competent in minimising the disturbance effect of his/her visit on the raptor’s breeding attempt.

There’s a very good reason why many raptor fieldworkers don’t give prior notice of their intended visit, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what that might be! Why do you think gamekeepers are demanding that they be given prior warning of a visit? Could it be so they can rush out and remove poisoned baits, dead birds, illegal traps? Bert suggests that the prior notice is to ‘minimise disturbance’ to the gamekeeper’s daily routine, such as ‘fox control’. What utter tosh! Other members of the public, such as hill walkers, cyclists, dog walkers etc, are not required to provide prior notice. Why should it be different for raptor fieldworkers? Could it be because raptor fieldworkers are more likely to be able to spot criminal activity, than say, a casual hill walker?

Bert goes on to urge his members to report anybody seen at a nest site to the police. This is actually a great piece of advice, because it will save the raptor fieldworker the trouble of making the call when he/she finds the poisoned bait, or dead raptor, or trampled chicks, or smashed eggs, or illegal trap during their site visit. The interesting part will be whether the police actually turn up to investigate!

Bert also talks about how raptor workers are licenced (the SNH-issued Disturbance Licence mentioned above) and how the system is ‘based on trust’ with ‘no built in accountability’. That’s also incorrect (where does he get his ‘facts’?). However, the interesting part in his article is where he calls for equality in terms of accountability for raptor fieldworkers and gamekeepers. We couldn’t agree more, Bert! The sooner that a licensing system for individual gamekeepers is introduced, the better!

Bert’s article on the SGA website here

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6 Responses to “SGA says that raptor workers could be laundering eggs & chicks”


  1. 1 Tony Warburton MBE
    February 27, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    No doubt Bert and other similar SGA ‘spokesmen’ read this bog, so can we ask him to provide the evidence (firm, not apocryphal!) which forms the basis for his suggestion. If he doesn’t have any, perhaps he would be big enough to apologise (in print) on behalf of himself and the SGA. Did I just see a pink pig fly across the face of the moon???

  2. February 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    I’ve an idea to make ourselves as accountable as possible we could be given funding to wing tag/satellite tag, PiT tag as many raptors as we can safely use the technology upon, this will ensure that they are as visible as possible to the public in general and and enable us to learn a vast amount about their site fidelity and dispersal at the same time.

  3. February 27, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Given the thousands of nest visits made by raptor workers since their inception in the late 1970s…Im very confident any problems of undue disturbance [or indeed theft] by raptor workers would have shown up by now. The best monitors of raptor work are undoubtedly other raptor workers…and god help anyone caught doing what is being cynically or ignorantly suggested here……………Also on a more fractual note…the market for peregrines [eagles were only ever a small balck market from Scotland] is now very small and nowhere near as lucrative as it was in the bad old days of the 80s, hence the lack of theft reports. I cant resist adding the fact that there werte documented cases of keepers in Scotland passing on peregrine eggs and chicks to thieves for money…I was involved in a couple of cases of that and heard rumours of many more…I dont recall a single case of a raptor worker being involved in theft.

  4. February 27, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    An interesting comment from Caroline Hunt on our FaceBook page is reproduced here for the benefit of those who don’t use FaceBook:

    I have legitimate right of access to any property when undertaking my work as a meter reader and I must say I am suspicious when an estate tells me I must give them advance notice of any visit, despite my explanation that I have as many as 800 meters to read at holiday cottages all over the Highlands and it is impossible to phone everyone in advance! I read between the lines!

    I am also concerned that I travel between 100-200 miles a day, much of it over moorland, and cannot recall the last hen harrier I saw – and the last short eared owl was outside a housing estate on the outskirts of Inverness. No persecution there!

    Personally I also worry when the advisor to gamekeepers at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT, formerly the Game Conservancy) was, [name redacted – Ed] the former headkeeper at Leadhills Estate (which featured on Scotland’s Sporting Estates [the BBC documentary, ‘Fair Game?’ – Ed.] last year showing the persecution which went on on that estate) – and the guy is also a JP!!!

  5. 5 paul v irving
    February 28, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    it is just the usual attempt at muddying the waters by the guilty and desperate, sorry Bert your attempt to caste the blame elsewhere is at least here a failure let’s hope the public are wise enough to see through it too.

  6. 6 Paul Risley
    February 28, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    The Scottish Gamekeepers Association must by now be coming an embarrassment to many in the shooting Industry as well as other Field sports. This latest release whilst an obvious attack on Raptor workers also grossly undermines Falconry. British Falconers worked hard to become self sufficient in providing Aviary bred birds to keep the sport alive, I can imagine many Falconers being angered by suggestions like these coming from someone with a field sports background, hopefully the Hawk Board will have something to say on this.


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