21
Nov
18

Two of the four missing satellite-tagged hen harriers ‘disappeared’ on grouse moors in Cairngorms National Park

Earlier this month RSPB Scotland announced that four of this year’s satellite-tagged hen harriers had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on Scottish grouse moors (see here).

[RPUK map showing approximate last known locations of four satellite-tagged hen harriers]

We said at the time that we’d be coming back to this subject as we were interested in the locations from where the birds had vanished.

Two of those hen harriers (Margot and Stelmaria) both hatched on the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms National Park earlier this summer, and both of them subsequently vanished, also inside the Cairngorms National Park.

[RPUK map showing approximate last known locations of hen harriers Margot & Stelmaria]

We’ll be coming back to have a closer look at these locations tomorrow.

It should be shocking that two hen harriers, a high priority red-listed species, have vanished in suspicious circumstances inside the world-renowned Cairngorms National Park (CNP). But it isn’t. Because this isn’t the first time.

In August 2016 satellite-tagged hen harrier Brian ‘disappeared’ inside the CNP (see here).

In August 2017 satellite-tagged hen harrier Calluna ‘disappeared’ inside the CNP (see here).

In August 2015 satellite-tagged hen harrier Lad didn’t ‘disappear’ but he was found dead, suspected shot, inside the CNP (see here).

But it’s not just satellite-tagged hen harriers. At least 15 satellite-tagged golden eagles have also ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in recent years inside the CNP (see here). In 2014 the first white-tailed eagle chick to fledge in East Scotland in approx 200 years also ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances inside the CNP (see here) and earlier this year another white-tailed eagle also ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances inside the CNP (see here).

We’ve searched the Cairngorms National Park Authority’s website for a comment/statement about the latest two hen harrier disappearances but we didn’t find anything.

We’ve also searched the Scottish Government’s website for a comment/statement about the latest two hen harrier disappearances inside the CNP but we didn’t find anything there either.

Probably because it’s all a bit embarrassing.

In 2017, following the damning findings of the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, the Scottish Government announced it was to establish a 12-month pilot scheme, funding five police special constables to work in the CNP to focus on deterring and detecting wildlife crime. This scheme was launched in March this year (see here).

This pilot scheme was the Government’s alternative to extending the powers of the SSPCA to allow it to investigate a wider suite of wildlife crime (including raptor persecution) – a decision made after six years of Governmental deliberation under five different Environment Ministers.

It also emerged earlier this year that this pilot scheme was also an alternative to the Government’s 2016 manifesto pledge to establish a Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit as part of Police Scotland – a pledge on which it has now reneged (see here). The idea is that the police special constable scheme could be rolled out across Scotland “if judged to be successful” in the CNP.

We’re not sure what the criteria will be for judging ‘success’ but we can be quite sure that the continued suspicious ‘disappearance’ of satellite-tagged raptors within the CNP cannot possibly be indicative of success.

UPDATE 22 Nov 2018: Did hen harrier Margot ‘disappear’ on a Royal grouse moor? (Here)

UPDATE 23 Nov 2018: From which grouse shooting estate did hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappear’? (here)

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9 Responses to “Two of the four missing satellite-tagged hen harriers ‘disappeared’ on grouse moors in Cairngorms National Park”


  1. November 21, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    Even with the good news of Cairgorms Connect , the fact is that there are enough ‘bad apples’ in Scotland to be a very effective ‘sink’ for as many raptors as are presently in the Cairngorms and all of Eastern Scotland.
    It amazes me that these estates and their owners are not pilloried by the few undoubted good estates but who have no voice because the representative bodies seem to still be in denial mode. They effectively still support those who threaten their ‘industry’ by their inaction. It will end very badly for them if there is no change in attitude confirmed by positive action.

  2. 2 Mick Ball
    November 21, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    This is so depressing and disgusting.

    The CNP is a sink for eagles and harriers as well as the others that are not sat tagged.

    I will not be supporting the CNP.

    Special Constables to deal with serious and organised crime is nothing short of an insult to the public.

    Scottish Governemnet have shown their true colours by failing to give SSPCA additional powers.

    As more tags go down the truth is being uncovered and high lighting the killing of wildlife on an industrial scale.

    And the failure or the Scottish Government

  3. 3 George M
    November 21, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    Read it and weep! Foxes to help guard the chicken Coup. (Albeit this article is from 2009 it illustrates the depth of denial and possible collusion in these parts. I have no idea if the project happened or was quietly shelved)
    https://www.shootinguk.co.uk/news/gamekeepers-to-be-recruited-as-special-constables-5707

  4. November 21, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    No surprise that these and many untagged raptors are killed there as elsewhere on grouse moors.
    Just to cut to the chase …….
    I recently had a disturbing [ but run of the mill ] experience on the west coast coast of Scotland which for obvious reasons I will only give brief details;
    Having been intimidated by a senior member of an estate’s slaves [ keepers ], while surveying raptors in an entirely lawful manner, the individual made sure that I was detained by the police.
    While I endured this laughable incident, the police officer searching my vehicle and researching my background let slip an interesting piece of information regarding the close family relationships between the keepers and the “Special ” constables.

    Spouses of the slaves really shouldn’t be expected to pursue raptor persecution with any zeal !

    Don’t expect change soon.
    I suspect that direct action on estates will now be the best way forward to counteract the loaded dice.

    Keep up the pressure !

  5. 5 Jimmy
    November 21, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    Nation parks in the UK are a joke full stop!! – can you imagine this carry on being indulged in any other civilized Western Country??

  6. 6 Paul V Irving
    November 22, 2018 at 10:24 am

    National Parks in the UK are essentially planning designations and do not really compare to National Parks elsewhere which are publicly owned and run for the benefit of wildlife scenery and visitors. However that said this is a bloody shambles the Scottish Govt, though much better than the incompetent shits we have here in England, are either so far removed from the problem of wildlife crime that they do not understand or they are complicit. Special Constables will not solve the problem, indeed if should in this case be following the lead of North Yorkshire Police with a large and growing rural task force trained in discovering and investigating wildlife crime, plus of course enabling SSPCA to do the same. As to the CNPA they are a bloody disgrace, time they either stepped up to the plate or individuals on it were replaced.
    THIS SHOULD BE THE TOP NATIONAL PARK IN THE UK YET ITS REPUTATION AND WILDLIFE VALUE IS BEING TRASHED BY CRIMINALS EMPLOYED BY CRIMINALS IN THE FRANKLY APPALLING BLOODY GAME INDUSTRY. Long past time it was sorted.
    All estates where sat tagged raptors are lost should be subject to thorough police investigation including very through and intrusive searches and the loss of the use of the general licence, lets get the gloves off!

  7. 7 Oliver Craig
    November 22, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    The only way to stop this criminality is for all estates to be taken into public ownership. Will this happen you know the answer to that !!! Much of the land that is in public ownership is poorly funded and has to fight an uphill battle when surrounded by many of these estates.


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