Archive for September, 2013


Scottish Government publishes first wildlife crime report (2012)

Wildlife Crime in Scotland 2012 ReportThe long-awaited Scottish Government report on wildlife crime has just been published.

The publication of this annual report became a requirement under the new Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, and this first report relates to wildlife crime incidents recorded in Scotland during 2012. It covers various elements of wildlife crime, including raptor persecution, badger persecution, bat persecution, freshwater pearl mussel persecution and poaching.

As the report has only been published today, we won’t be commenting on it in detail until we’ve had a chance to read and analyse the contents. As you might expect, we’ll be ignoring the gloss of the press release and will be drawing our own conclusions, rather than blindly accepting the usual ‘good news’ spin that typically accompanies this sort of ‘official’ publication.

One thing we did notice straight away though, was that the RSPB has not been acknowledged as a data source. That’s quite interesting, seeing as the RSPB is the ONLY organisation in Scotland to compile comprehensive data on raptor persecution incidents. Instead, the organisations listed include the Scottish Government Justice Department, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Police Scotland, and the National Wildlife Crime Unit. Hmm.

It will be very interesting to compare the number of incidents that have been listed as “police-recorded raptor crimes” with the number of incidents recorded in RSPB Scotland’s 2012 Annual Report, which should be published in the near future.

We’ll be blogging about the Scot Gov annual report in due course. For now, you can read it here: Wildlife Crime in Scotland 2012 Report


Sparrowhawk shot and strung up from gatepost

shot hung spar IrelandThe Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service are appealing for information after the discovery of a sparrowhawk found hanging from a gatepost. It had been shot and then strung up with a piece of string.

The gruesome discovery was made along a public road in the Rathkenny area of Navan, County Meath.

Further details and a contact telephone number for anyone with information can be found here.


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.


Derbyshire Police & Crime Commissioner holds wildlife crime summit

alan-charlesLast year in England and Wales, a number of independent people were elected as regional Police and Crime Commissioners, charged with securing efficient and effective policing in place of the abolished police authorities (see here).

Alan Charles was elected as the Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire in November 2012, and he has shown that he means business when it comes to tackling wildlife crime. One of his first tasks was to announce that the reduction of wildlife crime was a key focus within his Police and Crime Plan for Derbyshire.

Earlier this year he commissioned a report about wildlife crime in Derbyshire, which was produced by Derbyshire Constabulary and was presented at the force’s strategic governance board meeting in July. The report highlighted the prevalence of wildlife crime in the county; over 200 incidents were reported to the police over the previous year, including the poisoning of birds of prey, badger baiting, hare coursing and poaching. As a result of these findings, Mr Charles called for a wildlife summit to be held, to bring together different agencies to see how they could better report and tackle wildlife crimes in their region (see here).

That summit is taking place today (see here).

Alan Charles is showing strong leadership and vision and we wish him our support and every success.


Buzzard dies from gunshot injuries in Northumberland

Hexham buzzardAn injured buzzard was found by a member of the public at Blanchland near Hexham, Northumberland at the weekend.

It had been shot.

The bird was taken to a wildlife sanctuary at Ladyhill Farm, Simonburn, Hexham where it later died of its injuries.

More info on the Falconry Days  facebook page here.

UPDATE 25th September: Police have now issued an appeal for information about this case, and a similar one in the same area involving a shot tawny owl. Read the press release here.


How serial egg thief Gonshaw was caught: BBC’s The One Show tonight

There will be a feature on the BBC’s The One Show  this evening, documenting how serial egg thief Matthew Gonshaw was caught nicking eggs on the Isle of Rum, thanks to eagle-eyed SNH staff living on the island. This led to legal history when Gonshaw was issued with an ASBO preventing him from ever visiting Scotland again during the breeding season (see here).

BBC 1, this evening, 7pm. Available on BBC iPlayer later this evening for seven days. We’ll add the link when it’s available.

UPDATE 11pm: The link to watch the film on BBC iPlayer (starts at 15.25 min), available for seven days only, is here.



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?

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