20
Mar
18

Pilot scheme for special constables to tackle wildlife crime in Cairngorms National Park

Press release from Police Scotland / Cairngorms National Park Authority (16 March 2018):

WILDLIFE SPECIAL CONSTABLES TAKE UP DUTIES IN CAIRNGORMS

An initiative to tackle wildlife crime in the Cairngorms was launched today when the first Police Scotland Special Constables to tackle wildlife and rural issues within Cairngorms National Park formally took up their duties.

The Scottish Government and the Cairngorms National Park Authority is funding the pilot project, which will see five officers, who are all currently Special Constables and based across the three Police Scotland divisions which are covered by the National Park area, concentrate on wildlife and rural crime issues. They will engage with other agencies to prevent wildlife crime and build on existing relationships with those living and working in the Cairngorms National Park.

Detective Chief Superintendent David McLaren from Police Scotland said, “Tackling wildlife crime in Scotland is something that Police Scotland takes very seriously. Our priority should be preventing these crimes in the first place and we can only do this through strong partnership working and with the help of the public.

It is our hope that by having this additional policing resource within the Cairngorms National Park we will be able to deter wildlife criminals. By building good relationships with those using the park, for work or leisure, we will also seek to better educate the public in identifying and reporting suspicious activity.”

Grant Moir, CEO of Cairngorms National Park Authority said, “Wildlife crime is unacceptable and damages the reputation of the Cairngorms as an outstanding National Park for nature. I am pleased to see the start of the special constable pilot with Scottish Government and Police Scotland to tackle this issue, but of course I would much prefer that this sort of resource was not needed to tackle an issue that should not be happening in 21st century Scotland.

This is just part of the work that we are all undertaking to tackle this issue and the CNPA look forward to working closely with the Special Constables and Police Scotland.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said, “Scotland’s wildlife is precious and a huge part of our national identity, and these additional officers will be a valuable resource in tackling wildlife crime in the Cairngorms National Park.

I announced this programme following a report that found many of our golden eagles are disappearing in suspicious circumstances. Golden eagles are in the news again with reports of another missing bird, which further underlines the importance of this work.

It is my hope that the success of this pilot scheme will allow us extend it more widely across Scotland. We are absolutely determined to crack down on those who commit crime against our wildlife.”

Anyone with any relevant information on the fates of missing golden eagles or suspected wildlife crime in general, is urged to report this to Police Scotland on 101.

ENDS

This initiative is one of a number of measures announced by Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham last May, in response to the findings of the golden eagle satellite tag review which showed clear evidence of deliberate and sustained illegal raptor persecution, particularly on some driven grouse moors in and around the Cairngorms National Park.

This map shows the last known location of satellite-tagged golden eagles that were either found illegally killed or had disappeared in suspicious circumstances in and around the Cairngorms National Park.

And it’s not just satellite-tagged golden eagles that have been killed / disappeared in suspicious circumstances in this area. A number of satellite-tagged red kites and hen harriers have suffered the same fate, and since the golden eagle report was published (May 2017), another golden eagle has vanished in the area (see here) as has another hen harrier (see here).

Not one of these incidents, depicted on this map below, has resulted in a prosecution:

With the greatest of respect to the five wildlife special constables, who undoubtedly want to make a difference by volunteering in their spare time, will this pilot scheme really make any difference? It’s hard to know, of course, until the nine month scheme has ended, but even then, we don’t know the criteria by which success will be measured.

We don’t even know the details of the scheme’s operational framework – how will these special constables carry out their wildlife crime duties within the Park? Will they be targeting specific estates? If so, how? They can’t just rock up and do spot searches without having good reason to suspect a wildlife crime has taken place. Nor can they undertake covert surveillance without authority under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act (RIP(S)A), authority which will not be forthcoming because wildlife crimes are not formally categorised as being serious enough to warrant RIP(S)A authority.

There was mention of “strong partnership working” within the official press release – we’ve come to learn that this is a mostly meaningless phrase often used in the field of raptor persecution detection and prevention as a bit of window-dressing, simply trotted out to portray a harmonious relationship between the good guys and the bad guys but with few, if any, tangible results.

It’s easy to see why the Scottish Government chose the Cairngorms National Park to trial this pilot scheme. It has the full support of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (and presumably any resources the CNPA is able to provide) and some areas of the Park are well-known hotspots for wildlife crime, particularly the illegal killing of birds of prey.

Here is a map of raptor persecution crimes recorded in and around the Cairngorms National Park since 2005. As far as we’re aware, only one of these, just beyond the Park boundary (Kildrummy Estate, 2012), resulted in a successful prosecution:

The following list, which we’ve compiled from various data sources but predominantly from the RSPB’s annual persecution reports, documents over 60 illegal raptor persecution incidents inside the Cairngorms National Park (CNP) since 2002. (The Park wasn’t formally established until 2003 but we’ve included 2002 data as the area had been mapped by then). This list includes just the crimes we know about. How many more went unreported/undiscovered?

2002

Feb: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Tomintoul (No prosecution)

Mar: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 rabbit baits. Cromdale (No prosecution)

2003

Apr: 3 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 grey partridge baits. Kingussie (No prosecution)

Jun: Attempted shooting of a hen harrier. Crannoch (Successful prosecution)

2004

May: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cuaich (No prosecution)

Nov: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

2005

Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Mar: 3 x poisoned buzzards, 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Crathie (No prosecution)

2006

Jan: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Dulnain Bridge (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned raven (Mevinphos). Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Morven [corbett] (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned raven + 1 x poisoned common gull (Aldicarb) + egg bait. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

May: egg bait (Aldicarb). Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenfeshie (No prosecution)

2007

Jan: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Glenshee (No prosecution)

Apr: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: Pole trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Tomintoul (No prosecution)

May: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit & hare baits. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jul: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Ballater (No prosecution)

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Newtonmore (No prosecution)

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

2008

Jan: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Mar: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

2009

May: 2 x poisoned ravens (Mevinphos). Delnabo (No prosecution)

Jun: rabbit bait (Mevinphos). nr Tomintoul (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Strathdon (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x illegal crow trap. Nr Tomintoul (No prosecution)

2010

Apr: Pole trap. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x pole-trapped goshawk. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Jun: Illegally set spring trap on tree stump. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Sep: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenlochy (No prosecution)

Oct: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Nr Boat of Garten (No prosecution)

2011

Jan: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Bridge of Brown (No prosecution)

Mar: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Apr: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran & Aldicarb). Nr Bridge of Brown (No prosecution)

May:  1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

May: 1 x shot short-eared owl, found stuffed under rock. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x shot peregrine. Pass of Ballater (No prosecution)

Aug: grouse bait (Aldicarb). Glenlochy (No prosecution)

Sep: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

Nov: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

2012

Apr: 1 x shot short-eared owl. Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Apr: Peregrine nest site burnt out. Glenshee (No prosecution)

May: Buzzard nest shot out. Nr Ballater (No prosecution)

2013

Jan: White-tailed eagle nest tree felled. Invermark (No prosecution)

May: 1 x shot hen harrier. Glen Gairn (No prosecution)

May: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat

2014

Apr: Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat

May: Armed masked men shoot out a goshawk nest. Glen Nochty (No prosecution)

2015

Sep: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Lad’ found dead, suspected shot. Newtonmore (No prosecution)

2016

May: 1 x shot goshawk. Strathdon (No prosecution)

Jun: Illegally set spring traps. Invercauld (No prosecution)

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Brian’ ‘disappears’. Kingussie

2017

Mar: Satellite-tagged golden eagle #338 ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Calluna’ ‘disappears’. Ballater

In addition to the above list, two recent scientific publications have documented the long-term decline of breeding peregrines on grouse moors in the eastern side of the National Park (see here) and the catastrophic decline of breeding hen harriers, also on grouse moors in the eastern side of the Park (see here).

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14 Responses to “Pilot scheme for special constables to tackle wildlife crime in Cairngorms National Park”


  1. 1 J .Coogan
    March 20, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Trying to be upbeat about this , honest , but seems like a PR exercise . I was raised in the countryside and all the special constables were game keepers or were pro shooting, can’t see it being very different up there.
    The Police are inept enough ( the WCLO) we have here , well words fail me) so can’t see the specials being anything special.

  2. March 20, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    A nice idea, however as the previous comments point out it is not likely to change the ‘status quo’ as the law seem completely unable to bring a prosecution against keepers or shepherds, for some reason.

  3. 3 Chris Roberts
    March 20, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    All those black dotes – no wonder I never see birds of prey (apart from my local (sparrowhawk) within the parks boundary and very seldom om my regular drive up the A9.

  4. 4 Nigel Raby
    March 20, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    It might make more sense to satellite tag the Keepers their Family’s, their Employers & their Family’s & anyone else that goes anywhere near the Grouse moors. It would be interesting to see how many get dumped out at Sea!

  5. 5 Greengrass
    March 20, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    The Scottish Government could have had professionals with additional powers awarded to the SSPCA, but this is a complete farce. They’ll spend what little time they have being part-time, on anti poaching duties. Doesn’t sound to me that the Scottish Government is sincere in tackling raptor persecution in and around the park. And what are they doing about all the other grouse moor areas where the problem is just as rife?

    • 6 Dougie
      March 20, 2018 at 9:24 pm

      Looks to me like the Sc. Gov are giving every possible assistance SHORT of actually being of help. All show and no punch.
      I wonder if the special constables will be in uniform (high vis. clothing to be worn at all times).

    • 7 J .Coogan
      March 20, 2018 at 9:49 pm

      Excellent point , they have an army of well informed ,well motivated and in my experience bloody professional people at their fingertips ( SSPCA) but because of lack of backbone and pressure from the plods they have bypassed them and come up with this fudge. Don’t be fooled this is a sticking plaster exercise and will achieve nothing , but will buy them a bit of time.

  6. 8 Jimmy
    March 20, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Driven grouse shooting needs to be kicked out of this park – only then will the criminality end within its borders

  7. 9 George M
    March 20, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    I can’t see much change in the Staus Quo here .. same old shit… different year. The faceless power that stalks our Summits and Glens pull off yet another PR success. Lets hope I am wrong.

  8. 10 Mike Nicoll
    March 21, 2018 at 1:58 am

    J Coogan is correct,it’s just lip service. It’s just the same up here in the Glens, all the Specials are Keepers or Water Baillifs. The Landed Gentry have it all carved up. They have influence at all levels of the law and justice system. The only rational explanation for all the perverse judgements regarding inadmissability of video evidence, etc, is that the various judges, sherrifs, fiscals and so on are all involved in the game shooting lark. They are all stymieing these cases and rather than upholding the law they are actively preventing justice being served. It’s a scandel that they’re getting away with it. RPUK should ask the question whether any of the legal eagles involved in these cases have a vested interest in grouse shooting.

  9. March 21, 2018 at 9:39 am

    A nice picture of the minister leading the new specials off towards the long grass…..

  10. 12 Michael C
    March 21, 2018 at 10:12 am

    This is a complete sham and treats the public like idiots.
    No disrespect to the special constables themselves who have to be applauded for giving up their own time for the good of the community but this is like sending the AA to deal with a major motorway pile up.

    Wildlife crime is a very serious issue and can be very difficult to investigate requiring expertise and resources. The police themselves concede this and the lack of consistent enforcement success proves it.

    It is unbelievable that SSPCA have not been given additional powers to assist. It asks a very big question about the SNPs inability to deal with this issue and also their attitude to landowners and the sporting industry.

    Let’s keep a watching eye on the effect that the special constables have.

  11. 13 AnMac
    March 21, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    Cannot see the specials having any effect on the problem at all. As all others have said, a pr exercise by the Scottish government, being tough on wildlife crime. It is a joke.

    Can I suggest we put in a few teams of the SAS who actually know how to do covert surveillance on appropriate properties. We would then get results.

    Would be a great exercise area for our military rather than pussy footing around Salisbury Plains and such other military training places in the south.

    • March 23, 2018 at 6:34 pm

      AnMac..I tried that one 20 years ago..we used the military successfully to catch egg thieves, sometimes on shooting estates [“no one likes an egger”]..when I asked a military unit who were looking for “live” work, to try guarding a hen harrier nest in Perthshire, I got a call back from their Captain the next day, embarrassed, saying he had been told at a senior level, to back off….well, it was worth a try!..and there you have it….


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