Archive for September, 2013

30
Sep
13

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

28
Sep
13

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.

26
Sep
13

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 – cnodder@msn.com and info@nationalgamekeepers.org.uk

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.

25
Sep
13

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.

24
Sep
13

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.

23
Sep
13

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.

OneShow

21
Sep
13

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?

20
Sep
13

Langholm hen harrier ‘Miranda’ is at Leadhills

Hen-Harrier-1 avico ltdAccording to the most recent update on the fortunes of the four sat-tagged hen harriers from Langholm, all of them are still alive.

One of them, ‘Miranda’, was at Leadhills on Wednesday 18th September (see here).

Spread the word – it might deter the harrier killers (whoever they are) if they know a lot of eyes are on them.

19
Sep
13

Poisoned red kite found dead in reservoir

RedKitePoisonedReservoir_largeThe following is a press release from the Golden Eagle Trust in the Irish Republic:

A red kite recently discovered in Vartry Reservoir, Roundwood, Co. Wicklow has been confirmed as poisoned. The bird, identified as Blue Red 42 – an Irish bred kite, was reported by a concerned dog walker to Birdwatch Ireland who informed the local National Parks and Wildlife Service staff. An investigation into the matter was immediately begun.

A National Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger responded to the incident and located the carcass which lay only a few hundred metres from residential houses and a local pre-school. The bird had a mouth and crop full of fresh food, indicating that cause of death was most likely poisoning.

The Vartry Reservoir is used for recreational walking and angling and provides drinking water to the southern suburbs of Dublin.

Minister Deenihan said “The Red Kite is a magnificent bird of prey and is protected by law. I know every effort is being made to find the culprit in this incident, and I would call on any person with any information about this matter to contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department or An Garda Siochána. The use of this type of poison is strictly limited to the eradication of mice and rats, and should at no time be used in the reckless way it was.”

Tests were immediately ordered under the bird of prey post-mortem protocol, a scheme operated by the National Parks & Wildlife Service, the Regional Veterinary Labs (Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine) and the State Laboratory (Department of Finance). Within 48 hours thanks to the experts within the Regional Veterinary Lab and the State Laboratory, both located at Celbridge, the bird was confirmed as having been poisoned by alphachloralose. The legal use of alphachloralose is restricted to the control of rats and mice. Furthermore the stomach contents of the red kite indicate that the poison was placed on meat bait, a practice now banned, largely for the protection of birds of prey. Searches of the area for further casualties or poisoned baits and door to door enquires were conducted by National Parks and Wildlife Service staff and local Gardaí.

The kite was a wild-bred Wicklow kite from 2012, only 14 months old whose parents were originally brought over from Wales in 2008. The landowner on whose land the kite was born is very disappointed to hear it has been found dead. Red Kites have only recently made their way as far north as Roundwood and it will be disappointing for many of the locals that had been enjoying their presence to hear of the poisoning.

Dr Marc Ruddock, Red Kite Project Manager, for the Golden Eagle Trust said, “This is the height of recklessness and it is imperative that communities and individuals take responsibility for getting the people who are still laying poison to stop immediately. The costs are high for Irish wildlife and the potential human consequences of this incident don’t bear thinking about!” Dr Ruddock, urged people to report any information to National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) or An Garda Siochana and also report poisoning to their local Department of Agriculture office.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service in Wicklow welcomes any information on this case and the use of illegal poisons generally. You can contact the Wicklow Regional Office in Laragh on 0404-45800 or email wmnp@environ.ie The Department of Agriculture can also be contacted about poisons at the Dublin Office on 01 6072000 or email info@agriculture.gov.ie

The Irish Red Kite Reintroduction Project is part of an All-Ireland effort to restore red kites. These were formerly extinct in Ireland. The Golden Eagle Trust (www.goldeneagle.ie), NPWS and Welsh Kite Trust (www.welshkitetrust.org) have collected (from Wales) and released 120 red kites in Co. Wicklow between 2007 and 2011 and 39 red kites in Co. Dublin in 2011. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) www.rspb.org.uk released 80 red kites in Co. Down between 2008 and 2010. There are now 25-30 pairs of red kites breeding in Co. Wicklow and 10-15 pairs breeding in Co. Down. The Irish Red Kite Project is a partnership with the Welsh Kite Trust and National Parks & Wildlife Service.

RPS footnote: Well done to the lab guys who were able to confirm poisoning within 48 hours of the carcass being submitted, enabling important follow-up searches to take place. This quick turn-around is in stark contrast to the situation in Northern Ireland where long delays for poisoning results are hampering investigations.

19
Sep
13

SGA Chairman’s ignorance could fuel goshawk persecution

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association has recently published its autumn magazine. It’s full of quite remarkable material, as you might expect. We’ll be blogging about some of the articles in due course but thought we’d start with the ‘Chairman’s Column’, written by Alex Hogg.

He writes about a few issues but of particular concern to us is what he wrote about goshawks. Here’s an excerpt:

My local newspaper has just published an article on ringing chicks at a goshawk nest on forestry commission ground. In the article, gamekeepers are criticised for persecuting goshawks, without any attempts at providing proof, journalistic balance or an attempt to look at the history of the goshawk in Scotland. For the past 35 years I have lived with goshawks on my doorstep. I strongly believe the goshawk never was indigenous to the United Kingdom and there is absolutely no hard evidence to suggest otherwise. Those that illegally released this species into the British Isles could legitimately be charged, therefore, with a wildlife crime. These nests in the article are in commercial forestry where there is nothing whatsoever for the poor chicks to eat. What happens then? The young make their way out onto keepered ground, managed at significant cost and time to create a richness in biodiversity. Our local red squirrel population is now under severe threat and much of this can be put down to predation by the goshawk. Most raptors will eat what they kill. The goshawk will kill over and over again. The largest number of pheasant poults I lost on a stubble in one strike was 35. God knows what this could mean for our poor Curlews and Lapwings, teetering on the brink. Balance must surely be considered before we lose more precious species“.

Hogg’s display of ignorance about this species is quite staggering. The history of the goshawk in the British Isles, including its indigenous status, has been very well documented in many scientific papers and books, as have the effects of the relentless persecution it has suffered and continues to suffer, as well as its varied diet which changes according to latitude and habitat (he should try reading this and the references listed as a basic introduction).

Such is the concern about ongoing goshawk persecution that the species is listed by the National Wildlife Crime Unit as one of the ‘priority species’ to focus on, along with golden eagle, hen harrier, peregrine, red kite and white-tailed eagle. Every single one of these species is suffering population-level effects thanks to the illegal persecution carried out by those with game-shooting interests. As a participating member of PAW Scotland and PAW Scotland’s Raptor Persecution Group, Hogg should be very well aware of the pressures already facing this species.

For somebody in his position to be writing such unsubstantiated nonsense about an already significantly-threatened raptor is completely unacceptable. There will be some readers of the SGA magazine who will assume that Hogg’s information is reliable and credible and could use it as justification to persecute the goshawk.

Hogg should be hauled over the coals by the PAW Scotland group for such ignorance and irresponsibility.

We’ll be returning to the issue of goshawk persecution by gamekeepers in the very near future…..watch this space.

Gos1

 




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