A new SNH-commissioned report, published today, shows that the high level of illegal red kite persecution in North Scotland has not changed in 25 years.
The latest report (see here) is a follow up study on a paper published in 2010 (see here) that showed illegal persecution was responsible for holding back the spread of re-introduced red kites in North Scotland. That study used data from 1989-2006. The latest study looked at more recent data (2007-2014) and shows that absolutely nothing has changed. Red kites in North Scotland are still being illegally killed at an astonishingly high rate.
The Scotland red kite breeding population, currently at around 283 pairs, should be at around 1,500 pairs, if population growth is comparable with other re-introduced kite populations in other parts of the UK. The sickening reality is that the current North Scotland kite population is around 70 breeding pairs, in comparison to the reference population in the Chilterns (reintroduced at the same time as the N Scotland kites but not exposed to illegal persecution) which currently stands at over 1,000 breeding pairs. Illegal persecution has robbed Scotland of 1,430 breeding pairs of red kites.
What an absolute bloody disgrace.
Here is a quote from the new report:
‘It is clear that illegal killing is still the major factor limiting population growth of red kites in North Scotland. There is no evidence that the rate of illegal killing has changed between the time periods 1989-2006 (i.e. the years used in the original paper by Smart et al., 2010) and 2007-2014‘.
The Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, had this to say in an SNH press release about today’s report:
“It is of course, good news that red kite numbers are increasing in Scotland. But it must be said that it is extremely disappointing that this success is being lessened by illegal persecution of these magnificent birds.
I want to be clear that wildlife crime is not acceptable in a modern Scotland and this is why we are doing all we can to end the illegal killing of birds of prey and working in partnership with stakeholders to achieve that. Scotland already has the strongest wildlife legislation in the UK and earlier this year, we accepted proposals to introduce tough new maximum penalties for those who commit crimes against wildlife.
The Scottish Government has ordered a review of satellite tracking data – we want to make sure we are getting the most information we can on when and how birds are disappearing.
Last year, we also funded the free pesticide disposal scheme which removed over 700kg of illegally held poisons in Scotland, to allow those still in possession of illegal substances to have them removed. I’m also seeing some really encouraging best practice from the farming community on the responsible use of rodenticide, which can be used by wildlife criminals to persecute raptors.”
We’ll be commenting in a later blog about the Cabinet Secretary’s comments, and putting them in to context with other, similar comments that have been trotted out by her predecessors over the years. Suffice to say, we’ve heard it all before and whilst those (Government) who could stop all of this find reasons not to do so, the killing continues.
Today’s report can be added to the mountain of scientific evidence about the extent and damage that illegal persecution is causing to our native, protected raptors at the hands of the game-shooting industry (e.g. see recent papers on catastrophic decline of hen harriers (here) and peregrines (here) due to illegal killing on the grouse moors of NE Scotland).
The hand-wringing and platitudes from the Government, and the denials and obfuscation from the game-shooting industry have all worn thin.
When does it STOP, Roseanna Cunningham?
UPDATE 2PM: The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association has issued a statement in response to this report. Basically, it reads ‘It’s nuffin to do wiv us, Guv’. Read it here.