Archive for the '2016 persecution incidents' Category

29
Jan
18

Last chance saloon for Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative

Following last week’s news that the RSPB has terminated its involvement with the failed Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative (here), one of the local raptor study groups has now issued a statement on where it stands.

The Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group, which has played a central role in raptor monitoring and providing breeding data for the Initiative, has decided to give the Initiative one last chance to succeed, despite strong reservations about the intent of the local grouse shooting industry, particularly the gamekeepers and the Moorland Association.

The full statement can be read on the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group’s website, here.

The Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative is in the last chance saloon. We learned last week that the Peak District National Park Authority will be “looking for an increase in birds in the breeding season before committing to working with the other organisations in the Initiative beyond 2018” (see here).

All eyes on the Dark Peak this spring.

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25
Jan
18

Gamekeepers’ attempts to suppress Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative report

Earlier this week we blogged about how the Moorland Assocation had blocked the publication of an official press statement on the failed Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative (here) and then shortly afterwards how the RSPB had terminated its involvement with this project (here).

We said at the time that it wasn’t just the Moorland Association that was disrupting this ‘partnership’, but that the local gamekeepers had also played their part. Here’s the evidence, sourced via an FoI to the Peak District National Park Authority:

On 8th November 2017, Rhodri Thomas (Peak District National Park Authority) sent around a copy of the draft Bird of Prey Initiative (BoPI) Report 2016-2017 to all members of the BoPI, asking for comments before the report was published. Here is that draft report: Draft BoPI 2016 2017 report

On 10th November 2017, Amanda Anderson (Director, Moorland Association) had a telephone conversation with Rhodri Thomas about the draft report. We don’t know the full details of that conversation but judging from Rhodri’s email to Amanda shortly afterwards, it’s clear that Amanda was questioning the accuracy of the report:

On 25th November 2017, Amanda wrote to Rhodri and sent him a copy of the draft BoPI report with comments from the local gamekeepers, compiled by ‘Richard’ (a gamekeeper). The main thrust is that the gamekeepers don’t accept the report as accurate, apparently do not understand the BoPI’s terms of reference six years on, and don’t want the 2016/2017 report to be published. Here is a copy of those comments:

Gamekeeper comments in response to draft 2016 2017 BoPI report

And here is Amanda’s email to Rhodri, basically supporting the gamekeepers’ comments:

On 26 November, Rhodri emailed Amanda with his intitial thoughts on the gamekeepers’ comments:

On 27 November 2017, Rhodri wrote a more detailed reponse to Amanda about the gamekeepers’ comments:

Rhodri also sent Amanda his annotated comments to the gamekeepers’ complaints, rejecting the vast majority as being either irrelevant or inaccurate. Here it is (and it’s worth a read): Rhodri response to gamekeeper comments on draft 2016 2017 BoPI report

On 29 November, Rhodri sent the final version of the 2016/2017 BoPI report to the whole group, but before he did, he also sent this explanatory email to Amanda and Robert Benson (Chair, Moorland Assoc) to clarify why he had rejected the majority of the gamekeepers’ comments:

Later the same day, the Moorland Association refused to sign the joint press statement announcing how the BoPI had once again failed to meet any of its targets, and so the 2016/2017 report was quietly posted on the Peak District National Park Authority website without any formal announcement. We blogged about that decision here.

The emails and documents we’ve posted here provide just a flavour of the efforts Rhodri and his team have made to keep the partnership on track and to maintain the focus on tackling rampant illegal raptor persecution within the Dark Peak. In our view the Moorland Association and the gamekeepers have been working to an entirely different agenda (and the BoPI results support this view) whilst enjoying the PR gains of being seen as partners working towards improved raptor protection in the National Park.

The Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative is the epitome of a sham partnership and we applaud the RSPB for calling it out, and getting out.

23
Jan
18

Moorland Association blocks official statement on raptor persecution in Peak District National Park

Regular blog readers will be familiar with the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative (BoPI). This so-called partnership was established in 2011 and was originally a five-year project which aimed to restore declining populations of some raptor species in the Dark Peak region of the Peak District National Park.

BoPI partners included the Moorland Association, The National Trust, Natural England, Peak District National Park Authority and the RSPB. Two local raptor study groups (the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group and the South Peak Raptor Study Group) were also involved.

The BoPI was deemed necessary following years of evidence of wide scale raptor persecution on grouse moors within the region (e.g. see RSPB summary reports here and here). However, the Moorland Association put its own ludicrous spin on the situation by publishing an article to announce the launch of the BoPI but using the misleading headline: ‘Birds of prey thriving on grouse moors’.

By 2015, the BoPI had failed to meet any of its targets (see here). However, in a press release the Peak District National Park Authority said the BoPI would continue and claimed there was “renewed commitment” from the project partners as well as “new rigour and energy” to restore the breeding success of raptors in the Dark Peak.

Strangely, the BoPI failed to publish an annual report in 2016.

In late November 2017, the BoPI published its 2017 annual report, which was bundled together with the 2016 report (see here). Once again, the BoPI had failed to meet any of its targets and for the first time since 1984, there were no successfully breeding peregrines in the Dark Peak. This was clearly a failing partnership.

The results came as no surprise to anybody, but what was surprising, and as we blogged at the time, was that there wasn’t an accompanying press statement from the Peak District National Park Authority or from the BoPI – the annual report was quietly uploaded to a page on the Peak Park Authority’s website that you had to work quite hard to find.

Well now, after an FoI request, we know why.

There was a clear intention by the Peak District National Park Authority to issue a press statement on behalf of the BoPI, but this was blocked by project ‘partner’ the Moorland Association.

Here is the draft press statement produced by the Peak District National Park Authority on behalf of the BoPI with the intention of publishing it at the same time as the 2016/2017 report:

It was pretty measured and accurate, and all project partners had agreed to it, apart from the Moorland Association. Here’s the email from Amanda Anderson (Director, Moorland Association) to the Peak District National Park Authority rejecting the draft press statement, and written in the knowledge that if the project partners couldn’t agree on the draft statement by a set deadline, no press statement would be issued and the 2016/2017 report would be published on its own with no publicity:

And here is the response to Amanda from Rhodri Thomas of the Peak District National Park Authority, who clearly has a sense of humour (note his final sentence, in reference to the publicity about grouse moor owners wanting licences to kill Marsh harriers):

It’s quite clear why the Moorland Association would seek to block this press statement, given the dire results of the BoPI’s 2016/2017 report. Even a skilled PR manipulator like Amanda would struggle to conjure up any positive PR spin from such a catastrophic project failure.

What’s surprising is that the other BoPI partners would accept this situation and allow the 2016/2017 report to be published without any accompanying publicity. In their defence, it may be that the publishing deadline didn’t allow for any more discussion on the issue (the Peak Park Authority was obliged to publish the 2016/2017 report by a certain date because we’d asked for a copy via FoI and so the Park had to comply within the regulatory timeframe). Nevertheless, the press statement could still have been published, but with an additional disclaimer stating the Moorland Association did not agree with the report’s findings. That’s fairly standard practice in situations such as this.

But perhaps the other BoPI partners are not just sitting back and accepting the disruptive role of the Moorland Association in this partnership charade. Perhaps there are on-going discussions behind the scenes about how to address the problem. We’d like to think so, especially as we now also know, through this recent FoI, that it’s not just the Moorland Association that’s trying to prevent any negative publicity about on-going raptor persecution in the Peak District National Park. The local grouse moor gamekeepers are also complicit in this role, and we’ll be blogging more about that shortly.

We also now know that the Peak District National Park Authority, despite its best efforts to hold this partnership together, is struggling to see a future for the collaborative aspect of the BoPI. Good, it’s a bloody sham and the sooner the grouse shooting industry is prevented from masquerading as fully-supportive conservation partners, the better.

On a related topic, have a listen to this recent podcast interview with Amanda Anderson, which includes a discussion about the Moorland Association’s involvement in raptor conservation ‘partnerships’ (starts at 17.55).

UPDATE 14.30hrs: RSPB terminates involvement with failed Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative (here)

UPDATE 25 January 2018: Gamekeepers’ attempts to suppress Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative report (here)

13
Jan
18

Diverting attention from the illegal killing of peregrines on grouse moors

One of the many criticisms about the proposed reintroduction of hen harriers to southern England is that if a population does manage to become established, the grouse-shooting industry will use it to divert attention from the on-going eradication of this species on intensively managed driven grouse moors. ‘Look, hen harriers are doing just fine in the lowlands, the species’ conservation status has improved, everything’s fine, there’s nothing to worry about anymore’.

If you don’t think that that’s what will happen, just take a look at this letter from the Countryside Alliance, published in The Times yesterday:

PEREGRINE’S SUCCESS

Sir, your report that the peregrine falcon is “now seeking sanctuary in cities as it comes under threat” fails to provide vital context (“Prized peregrine falcons falling prey to greed“, News, Jan 9). The peregrine falcon population reached a low of about 150 pairs in the 1960s as a result of the impact of toxic agricultural chemicals such as DDT in the food chain as well as illegal persecution. However, improved legislation and protection has helped the peregrine falcon to expand its range and numbers. The latest estimates place the number of peregrines at a historic high of 1,500 pairs, and has led to the peregrine having its conservation status declared “secure”. The species, like other raptors such as the buzzard and red kite, is an undoubted conservation success.

ENDS

No mention then, of how illegal persecution on the north of England grouse moors is suppressing local peregrine populations (see here).

No mention then, of how the preliminary results of the 2014 national peregrine survey show a sharp decrease in peregrine occupation in the UK’s uplands, especially in areas intensively managed for driven grouse shooting (see here).

No mention then, of how illegal persecution has led to the continuing decline of peregrines in the grouse moor areas of north east Scotland, particularly on the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park (see here).

No mention then, of how illegal persecution has led to the continuing decline of the peregrine’s breeding population on the grouse moors of Bowland.

No mention then, of how illegal persecution has led to the continuing decline of the peregrine’s breeding population on the grouse moors of the Dark Peak in the Peak District National Park (see here).

Funny, that.

Photo of a dead peregrine that was found shot next to a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park in 2016 (RSPB photo)

12
Dec
17

£500 fine for man who mistakenly shot buzzard on Ralia Estate pheasant shoot

From an article in today’s P&J:

A protected bird of prey died when an oil executive shot a buzzard he thought to be a pheasant when it flew out of woods on a Highland estate, a court heard yesterday.

Keith Riddoch, of Craigden in Aberdeen, was on a shoot on the Ralia Estate near Newtonmore last November when he made the fatal mistake.

[Ralia Estate in the Cairngorms National Park. Estate boundary details from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website. Map by RPUK]

Even after he fired the first shot of the day, the 65-year-old self-employed consultant was convinced he had bagged a hen pheasant.

But all but one of his fellow “guns” on the same shoot knew that the bird was a raptor. Riddoch was informed of his error at the end of the shoot, Inverness Sheriff Court was told.

[Photo from P&J]

They said it was the first time in their experience that a raptor had been shot by mistake.

The buzzard was so badly injured by the shotgun blast, it had to be destroyed.

Riddoch yesterday denied injuring the bird by recklessly shooting it on November 26 last year at a corporate shoot.

However after hearing evidence from the people accompanying him, including gamekeeper Alistair Lyon, Sheriff Margaret Neilson convicted the businessman of a contravention of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. She fined him £500.

Riddoch refused to comment after the trial, but told the court: “I made a genuine mistake. I didn’t misassess the situation.”

Defence solicitor David McKie accepted his client had made a mistake, but added: “It was negligent or perhaps careless, but not reckless.”

It was accepted by both prosecution and defence that a buzzard was of a similar size and colour as a brown female pheasant.

Mr Lyon was in charge of the outing where beaters scared the birds out of woods into the line of fire.

The 52-year-old gamekeeper told the court: “It was the first shot of the day and I glanced round. I saw the bird falling. It was a brief glimpse. But it didn’t look right. Buzzards fly differently to pheasants. But if it just came out of the trees it would look similar.”

Defence solicitor David McKie said the guilty verdict may have wider consequences for his client, saying he frequently travelled to the USA and the conviction could present problems for entry to the country.

He could also lose his shotgun licence.

ENDS

Could lose his shotgun licence? Good grief! If he can’t differentiate between a pheasant and a buzzard he shouldn’t be let anywhere near a bloody shotgun!

This is an interesting case. We’re pleased to see a prosecution and even more pleased to see a conviction, which are all too rare, but we’re left wondering how this crime came to the attention of the Police. Did somebody from the shoot alert the Police? Good on them if they did.

08
Dec
17

Scottish Government publishes 5th annual wildlife crime report

The Scottish Government has today published its latest Annual Wildlife Crime Report – the 5th one since it became a statutory obligation under the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011. The current report is entitled the ‘2016’ report, but it actually refers to wildlife crimes recorded from April 2015 to March 2016.

Download the latest report here: Wildlife Crime in Scotland 2016 Report

In previous years we’ve been critical of the report’s findings, mainly due to the use of misleading headlines and Police Scotland’s on-going practice of withholding information about raptor persecution crimes (e.g. see here, here).

We haven’t had a chance to scrutinise this latest report but will probably have a closer look at it over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, here is the Scottish Government’s press statement about the 2016 report:

Offence numbers down on previous year.

Recorded wildlife crime has fallen by 8%, according to the latest official figures.

The annual wildlife crime report, published today, shows reported offences have dropped from 284 in 2014/15 to 261 the following year.

Fish poaching, which remains the most prolific wildlife crime, was down by 26% on the year before.

The report shows an increase in hunting with dogs offences to 44 – up 24 offences on the previous year and the highest number over the five-year recording period.

The report brings together data from the Scottish Government, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Police Scotland and other sources – all members of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland).

The data in the report refers to recorded wildlife crime. It does not, for example, include satellite-tagged tagged birds which may have disappeared in suspicious circumstances, as without a carcass or other hard evidence of criminal activity, Police Scotland are not able to record these incidents as crimes.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham said:

This fifth wildlife crime annual report provides useful data on the issues we face trying to protect Scotland’s wildlife from illegal activity.

It shows a decrease in overall recorded wildlife crime which is welcome.

However there is no room for complacency. We know from the report published earlier this year, that it is very likely that golden eagles and other raptors are being illegally killed every year, but where there is no body or tag to be found, these losses do not make it into the recorded crime figures.

I have set out some measures to tackle the issue of missing raptors, including setting up an independent group to examine grouse moor management practices and a new pilot scheme to use special constables to tackle wildlife crime in the Cairngorms Park. I am determined to put an end to raptor killing and all other types of wildlife crime”.

Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “Although we are pleased to see the 8% decrease in wildlife crime reports, wildlife crime continues to cause us great concern.

The increase in hunting with dogs is very worrying and we will work with Police Scotland in any way to tackle wildlife crime in Scotland.”

ENDS

And here is RSPB Scotland’s press statement:

RSPB Scotland welcomes wildlife crime report

The Scottish Government has today released its annual wildlife crime report. In response, Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management for RSPB Scotland, said: “We welcome the publication of the Wildlife Crime in Scotland Report for 2016, and the continued scrutiny by the Scottish Government of this issue. Sadly, wildlife crime, including the illegal killing of our of native birds of prey, remains a blight on the international reputation of Scotland, and in our view stronger sanctions are urgently required to act as a deterrent.

At the end of May 2017, an official report into the fate of satellite tagged golden eagles showed that many of these birds were disappearing in suspicious circumstances, primarily on land managed for driven grouse shooting. As a result, an independent enquiry has now been launched by the Scottish Government into how grouse moors can be managed sustainably and within the law, including consideration of options for a licensing system.

We believe that an effective licensing system for driven grouse shooting, including sanctions to remove licences to operate where illegal activity is confirmed, could help tackle persistent criminality, and promote the required culture change in this sector. It would of course also provide safeguards for those land managers who operate responsibly. We look forward to giving evidence to this independent enquiry in due course.

The disappearing satellite tagged golden eagles, along with other similar occurrences to hen harriers, give a strong indication that the wildlife criminals have not stopped their activities, and instead may have changed their methods in order to avoid detection. This context needs to be taken into account when interpreting the data presented in the Wildlife Crime in Scotland Report.

ENDS

01
Dec
17

New report reveals abject failure to protect birds of prey in the Peak District National Park

The Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative (BoPI) was launched in 2011, mainly in response to two damning reports from the RSPB about the continued illegal killing of raptors in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park (see here & here), as well as all the publicity from a criminal prosecution, and subsequent conviction, of a Derbyshire gamekeeper who had been caught illegally using a trap (see here and here).

The BoPI comprises five organisations (Peak District National Park Authority, National Trust, Moorland Association, RSPB and Natural England), with additional support from two local raptor study groups, who are supposed to be working in partnership to increase the populations of several raptor species within the Dark Peak area of the National Park.

It was initially launched as a five-year project (2011-2015), and at the end of that period a report revealed the BoPI had failed to meet every single target set (see here).

Photo of an osprey found in the Peak District National Park in September 2015. It had two broken legs and succumbed to these injuries soon after being found. The post-mortem stated its injuries were consistent with being caught in a spring trap (Photo by RSPB)

Nevertheless, despite missing each and every one of the five-year targets, the Peak District National Park Authority decided the project would continue and announced a ‘renewed commitment’ from the Project partners, which was derided by us and by Mark Avery (here), who said it was just an opportunity for the National Park authorities to hide behind a failing project for a few more years and avoid taking any real action, like, for example, banning driven grouse shooting within the National Park.

The latest report (read it here), just published, covers the years 2016 and 2017 and surprise surprise, aboslutely nothing has changed.

Interestingly, this latest report has just been slipped out without any fanfare or publicity, presumably because the Peak District National Park Authority doesn’t want to draw attention to this on-going fiasco. The only reason we knew it was available was because we’d asked for a copy via FoI last month and had been told it would appear on the PDNPA website ‘shortly’, so we’ve been checking for it every day.

So, to summarise. No progress, no increased raptor populations, no statements of “renewed commitment”, and absolutely no point continuing with this charade of partnership-working.




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