Archive for the '2017 persecution incidents' Category


Buzzard found shot dead in Yorkshire Dales National Park

North Yorkshire Police are appealing for information following the discovery of a dead buzzard.

It was found by a farmer in a field off Hawthorns Lane, Gordale, near Malham in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. An x-ray revealed a shotgun pellet lodged in the bird’s head.

Police appeal for information here

The Grough website is also carrying an article about this dead buzzard and has included details of other recently-killed raptors and associated wildlife crime within this National Park:

‘The bird’s death is the latest in a number of incidents of raptor persecution in the Yorkshire Dales. A buzzard that was found with gunshot wounds in the Cowgill area in Dentdale earlier this month and taken to a veterinary centre, where it was expected to make a full recovery.

A tagged hen harrier that went missing in upper Swaledale in December last year and a shot peregrine falcon was found near Grassington in October.

In July, North Yorkshire Police admitted it had been wrong not to pursue a prosecution through the courts of a junior gamekeeper who admitted setting illegal cruel traps on the Mossdale Estate near Hawes. He was given a police caution for the offence.

The incident prompted the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chairman Peter Charlesworth to say: “At a time when the Yorkshire Dales is receiving such widespread recognition as a wonderful place to visit, it’s incredibly disappointing that the criminal persecution of birds of prey continues to damage the reputation of the area.

“We know that birds of prey are a big attraction to the millions of visitors that come here, so these acts are causing economic damage as well as appalling harm to wildlife.”’


Peregrine found shot in Ninfield, East Sussex

Press statement from Sussex Police, 25 May 2017:

A protected peregrine falcon has been found shot in Ninfield, East Sussex, sparking an investigation by police and the RSPB.

The bird – a female – was discovered alive but injured by woods at Lunsford Cross on 10 May, and staff from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service were called to recover the bird.

An X-ray revealed a recent fracture to its right wing consistent with a shot injury. While undergoing examination, a further three shot gun pellets were discovered: two in the bird’s stomach and one in its left wing. These were considered historic and the vet concluded that the bird had also been shot at an earlier date.

The peregrine has undergone surgery and is recovering at the rescue centre.

Daryl Holter, Wildlife and Heritage Officer for Sussex Police, has urged anyone with information about the incident to come forward.

He said: “Peregrine falcons are a protected species under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It is an offence to intentionally take, injure or kill a peregrine. To shoot it in this way was a vile and senseless act. Had the injured bird not been found it would almost certainly have faced a lingering death, possibly through starvation.”

Chris Riddington from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue said: “The bird is incredibly lucky to have been found and we are liaising with experts with regards to its care. It is still uncertain whether the fracture will heal, but our vets are happy with its progress. It’s hard to believe anyone would shoot a bird – but this is becoming far too common in today’s society. These birds are shot and left to suffer and we have to pick up the pieces.”

Jenny Shelton, RSPB investigations liaison officer, said: “It is appalling to hear that someone has shot a peregrine falcon – a bird which is already of conservation concern in the UK. Peregrines are magnificent, agile birds and will be breeding at this time of year, so taking out this young female may impact her chances of producing young this year.

This incident is part of an ongoing problem with raptor persecution in the UK. This is the fifth report of a peregrine with shotgun wounds we have received already this year, but as yet no-one has been brought to account. This, as most people would agree, is simply not acceptable.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, contact Sussex Police online, email or phone 101, quoting serial 420 of 19/05. Alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed or harmed, contact police or RSPB investigations on 01767 680551, or fill in the online form here


Shot peregrine successfully rehabilitated & returned to wild

In March we blogged about the discovery of a shot peregrine that had been found in Hampshire (see here). This was a bird that had hatched from a nest ledge on Salisbury Cathedral in 2014.

Following the shooting in March, the peregrine, ‘Peter’, was taken to the Hawk Conservancy Trust near Andover where he began a period of expert veterinary care and rehabilitation for a fractured wing caused by gunshot.

A few days ago, Peter was successfully released and returned to the wild. Fantastic work by all involved! The full story can be read on the Hawk Conservancy Trust website here.

The photo of Peter being released is by James Fisher.


Two buzzards shot in separate incidents in West Sussex

An article in the West Sussex County Times is reporting the illegal shooting of a buzzard in West Sussex last week.

The buzzard was found critically injured on Wednesday 17th May 2017 by two girls walking their dog in a field near Balcombe railway station.

The buzzard was taken to the Rangers Lodge Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre in Colgate where its wounds were cleaned and antibiotics were administered. It was then taken to a vet where it was decided its injuries were too severe for survival and the bird was euthanised.

While we were doing some background searching on this case, we stumbled across another report in the same newspaper of another buzzard that had been found shot in March.

A member of the public found the buzzard critically injured in woodland in Rowhook on Tuesday 7th March 2017. She commented: “I heard a shot which seemed quite close. Ten minutes later my dogs were sniffing around the base of a tree and wouldn’t come away from it. As I approached I could see what I thought was a dead pheasant. To my astonishment whatever it was moved and it wasn’t a pheasant but a buzzard”.

The bird was taken to Rangers Lodge Wildlife Rescue Centre but its injuries were too severe and the bird was euthanised by a vet.

The RSPB is offering a £1,000 reward for information that leads to a successful conviction. Either call the Police on 101 or call the RSPB Investigations Team on 01767-680551.


Game shoot licensing petition: Environment Committee to decide next steps

The Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee will meet next Tuesday to discuss how they wish to proceed with the Scottish Raptor Study Group’s petition calling for state-regulated licensing of game bird shooting.

As you’ll recall, the Committee took evidence from a range of stakeholders last month (see here for our commentary) so now they have to decide what should happen next. The ECCLR Committee clerks have outlined three possible options. Here’s option 1:

Given what’s happened since the Committee discussed this petition last month, i.e. Crown Office inexplicably abandoning three long-running prosecutions – alleged vicarious liability at Newlands Estate; alleged hen harrier shooting at Cabrach Estate; alleged pole-trapping offences at Brewlands Estate, and the witnessed shooting of a hen harrier at Leadhills Estate, the Committee will be hard pressed to justify taking option 1, because it is very clear that the current legislation and regulation is NOT working effectively.

Here are options 2 and 3:

As before, the session will be available to watch live on Scottish Parliament TV (we’ll add a link on Tuesday morning) and the video archive and official transcript will be posted here shortly afterwards.


Dear Cabinet Secretary

Dear Cabinet Secretary,

For many years now, the Scottish Government has acknowledged that illegal raptor persecution is an issue that not only affects the distribution and abundance of several internationally protected raptor species, but that it also casts a long shadow over the environmental credentials of a country that attracts millions of visitors every year who come to see its wildlife.

We acknowledge that in recent years the Scottish Government has taken steps to combat illegal raptor persecution, including taking leadership of the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime, instigating two poisons amnesties, the introduction of vicarious liability, the introduction of General Licence restrictions, the publication of annual wildlife crime reports, the commissioning of a review of wildlife crime penalties and an acceptance of the review’s findings, and the commissioning of a review on raptor satellite tag data (which is yet to be published).

We applaud the intention behind these measures, which have been in sharp contrast to the outright denial by the Westminster Government that there’s even a problem, let alone how to address it. Nevertheless, despite these actions, nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing.

Raptor persecution continues, disproportionately taking place on land that is managed for game bird shooting and particularly on driven grouse moors, and as a result certain raptor populations are in a continuing spiral of decline in these areas. Prosecution for these offences is virtually impossible, and even when sufficient evidence is gathered, it is ruled ‘inadmissible’ or ‘not in the public interest’ to proceed.

This morning’s news that an armed, masked man was seen, in broad daylight, blatantly shooting and killing a hen harrier on a grouse moor near Leadhills, is the final straw. Leadhills is the perfect microcosm of what is a country-wide problem. This latest incident is just one of at least 48 reported crimes in this area alone since 2003, and only two of those crimes resulted in a conviction; the vast majority did not even reach the prosecution stage.

What we are witnessing is a theatre of the absurd. We all know what’s going on, where it’s going on, and why it continues to go on.

Over the last five years, several Scottish Government Environment Ministers have promised further action if current measures proved to be ineffective. Here are some examples:

October 2012: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, in response to the news of a golden eagle that had been trapped on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens and then moved, overnight, and dumped in a lay by with horrific injuries and left to die:

“The unlawful killing of any raptors has no place in today’s Scotland and we will continue to work hard to eradicate this criminal activity. We believe that the partnership approach with the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, is bringing the reduction in bird of prey poisoning that can be seen in the statistics in recent years. However we are not complacent and if there is evidence of a switch to other methods of persecution we will take action to bear down on those methods”.

November 2012: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, in response to the news that a hen harrier had been found shot on an Aberdeenshire grouse moor:

We will not tolerate the illegal persecution of protected species such as the hen harrier and, as I have said recently in relation to another shooting [the golden eagle that was found shot and critically wounded on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire], I am prepared to look at further measures to strengthen and assist enforcement if we continue to see this flouting of the law in respect of protected species“.

March 2013: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, in response to the poisoning of a buzzard on a pheasant-shooting estate in SW Scotland:

And it does sicken me that unfortunately, once again, a bird has died as a result of Carbofuran poisoning, but I very much hope to see a positive outcome in that particular case. If we do continue to see a downward trend with the poisoning maps, but there is evidence perhaps of other types of persecution taking its place, as I’ve already said on the record, I will have no hesitation nor indeed very little option but to consider what other measures might be necessary”.

February 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, in a Channel 4 interview, when asked why he won’t just fully regulate the game shooting industry like other countries:

We want to avoid putting in place something that might be seen as a draconian response, or too restrictive a response. We’re not saying we wouldn’t do this, eventually…

April 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, on twitter, in response to our accusations that the Scottish Government was too interested in the independence referendum to bother with raptor persecution:

It [raptor persecution] stains our reputation and I promise you this is not being ignored by me or Scottish Government


We’re being robust and if new measures don’t improve, will go further

May 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in a Parliamentary debate on raptor persecution:

If and when we judge it necessary, I am committed to taking further action. If that involves licensing certain types of businesses, then we will do so“.

May 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in response to Parliamentary questions about raptor persecution:

The Scottish Government announced a package of measures in July 2013. These were a review of the penalties for wildlife crime, a restriction on the use of general licences and encouragement for the police to use the full range of investigative techniques at their disposal to deal with wildlife crime. We also introduced the vicarious liability provisions in the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act in 2012. The Scottish Government remains of the view that the measures have the capacity to help prevent, deter and detect wildlife crime. However, the measures must be given time to be fully implemented and for them to have an effect.

Nevertheless, we have been clear that if it becomes apparent that further measures are required we will take whatever action we consider necessary, including examining whether stronger management and regulation of game bird shooting is appropriate“.

October 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in response to a letter from the Cairngorms National Park Authority asking for help to address raptor persecution:

I have been clear that we will be prepared to go further if it is necessary, including looking at the licensing of certain types of shooting businesses“.

November 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse speaking at the SNP conference:

Listen to the will of the Scottish people and understand that we will not tolerate these crimes any longer. The sand is running out of the hour glass and they [the raptor-killing criminals] really do have to start listening to the messages we’re giving them very strongly. Enough is enough. Obey the law, respect the will of the Scottish people and protect our wildlife.

We must recognise that not all estates are engaged in this activity, there are, unfortunately, several rotten apples in the barrel who are spoiling this for everyone. I hope people do listen to the messages today, we really don’t want to have to go down the route of licensing game-shooting but we have indicated, in Parliament and elsewhere, that if we are forced to do so, that is the direction we will travel. I hope offenders heed the warning, stop spoiling what is a strong industry in the rural economy for Scotland, and make no mistake, as I say, we will not hesitate to act if they do not listen to what we are saying“.

April 2015: Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod in an article she wrote for Holyrood magazine:

I want to make it abundantly clear that the illegal poisoning of wildlife cannot – and will not – be tolerated in a modern Scotland“.

August 2015: Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod speaking about the possible reintroduction of golden eagles to southern Scotland:

The persecution of raptors will not be tolerated under any circumstances“.

August 2015: Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod following the news of a shot buzzard near a grouse moor in the Borders:

“The Scottish Government has already put in place new and strengthened measures to crack down on wildlife crime, including vicarious liability prosecutions and general licence restrictions, for example. But let me be absolutely clear – I will consider taking further action if necessary and the licencing of shooting businesses in Scotland remains an option.

August 2016: Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham responding to the news that eight satellite-tagged golden eagles have ‘disappeared’ on grouse moors in the Monadhliaths in the last five years:

The public rightly expects all businesses in Scotland to obey the law. Let me be clear: grouse shooting is no exception. As previously stated, the Scottish Government is prepared to introduce further regulation of shooting businesses if necessary. It will be unfortunate if the activities of a few bring further regulation on the whole sector, but that is the risk those why defy the law and defy public opinion are running“.

August 2016: Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham responding to the news that satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Elwood’ had ‘disppeared’ on a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths:

The news that a juvenile hen harrier has disappeared in the Monadhliaths, complete with its satellite tag, only weeks after it fledged, strengthens my determination to get to the truth about how, where and why raptors with functioning satellite tags seem to be regularly disappearing. I have asked for a review of all the evidence and I intend to ensure that data from hen harriers and red kites, as well as data from golden eagles will be considered as part of this. We are continuing to collect evidence in relation to raptors in Scotland, which will be a significant factor in deciding the next steps for tackling wildlife crime.”

September 2016: Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham responding to the news that satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Brian’ had ‘disappeared’ in the Cairngorms National Park:

I take this issue very seriously and it shows the need to establish whether the disappearance of these birds is indicative of criminal activity. 

It is clearly suspicious, but we must ensure that a robust statistical analysis of all the data from over 200 tagged birds supports any conclusion. 

I will consider what action to take in the light of the full evidence, and I am not ruling out any options.”

February 2017: Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham addressing the Scottish Raptor Study Group conference:

The illegal killing of our raptors does remain a national disgrace. I run out of words to describe my contempt for the archaic attitudes still at play in some parts of Scotland. We all have to abide by the law, and we do so, most of us, all throughout our lives. All I’m asking is that everybody does the same. Sporting businesses are NO different, and the people who breach the law deserve all the opprobrium and punishment we can mete out. I have no truck with the argument that raptors damage driven grouse shooting interests. Such damage, frankly, is a business risk you have to live with and manage, but within the law. And that is what must be reiterated again, and again, and again“.

With the imminent publication of the raptor satellite tag review, and the results of the national hen harrier survey, we can predict that you will shortly be faced with yet even more evidence of the continued impact of raptor persecution on the populations of several raptor species.

The SNP has had the support of the conservation community, and the wider general public, for ten years, and the steps taken against raptor persecution in the last few years have been seen as positive in comparison with the non-action of the Westminster government. But that’s not enough. Nowhere near enough. Even you must now acknowledge that these measures have led to no tangible changes in the behaviour of the game bird shooting industry.

As you can see from the above quotes, many fine words have been spoken over the last five years by successive Environment ministers. Hundreds, if not thousands of members of the public, in Scotland and beyond, have listened and waited patiently, but our patience has now run out.

The SNP needs to take meaningful, tangible action NOW.

No more procrastination.

No more second, third, fourth, tenth, hundreth, thousandth chance.


We are relying on you, and the SNP, to keep your promises.

Your sincerely,

Raptor Persecution UK bloggers


We’d encourage blog readers to send a copy of this open letter to the Cabinet Secretary, or even better, send your own message. Please send emails marked for the attention of Roseanna Cunningham to:


More on the shot hen harrier near Leadhills

RSPB Scotland has issued a press statement following this morning’s news that a hen harrier was shot near Leadhills on 4 May 2017:

Following the issuing of a press statement by Police Scotland, RSPB Scotland has today added its voice to the appeal for information following the shooting of a protected hen harrier on a grouse moor near the village of Leadhills in South Lanarkshire. The incident happened at 5.15pm on 4th May, when the female bird was killed. An individual, armed with a shotgun and with his face covered, was observed at the scene, but left hurriedly, on a quad bike before the police were able to attend.

RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, Ian Thomson said: “This latest incident shows very clearly how protected birds of prey continue to be treated in some areas of our uplands, particularly where there is intensive grouse moor management. The hen harrier is an increasingly rare bird in southern and eastern Scotland, with illegal killing the main driver of this long term decline. This incident occurred only a few miles from where a satellite-tagged harrier, known as “Annie”, was found shot a couple of years ago, and is close to where another tagged bird, “Chance” disappeared mysteriously last spring. We ask that, if anyone has information about this latest incident at Leadhills, they contact Police Scotland on 101.”

Ian Thomson continued “The recent decision by the Crown Office to discontinue a court case where there was clear video evidence of the alleged shooting of another hen harrier, has clearly sent out a message to those that wish to kill our protected birds of prey, that they can continue to do so with impunity, knowing that even if their alleged crimes are caught on film, they are unlikely to be called to account. We need this last matter to be addressed by the public authorities as a matter of urgency. ”


So, it has now been confirmed that the hen harrier was shot ‘on a grouse moor near the village of Leadhills’ by an armed, masked man who escaped on a quad bike. According to Police Scotland, the shooting took place ‘near to the B7040 Elvanfoot to Leadhills road’. We thought we’d take a closer look:

According to information from Andy Wightman’s brilliant Who Owns Scotland website, the B7040 runs from Elvanfoot right across the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate (estate shown in block red):

Was this hen harrier shot on the Leadhills Estate?

Regular blog readers will be very familiar with the Leadhills Estate and neighbouring Buccleuch Estate (Leadhills Estate gamekeepers have previously undertaken ‘pest’ control on parts of Buccleuch Estate) in south Scotland. For new readers, here’s a map showing the location (Leadhills Estate in block red, dotted line denotes Buccleuch Estate boundary, info from Who Owns Scotland). Look how close this is to the Moffat hills, where the Scottish Government plans to translocate golden eagles next year.

Here’s a list of 48 reported raptor persecution crimes from this area over the last 14 years. Only two resulted in successful convictions (2004 – Leadhills Estate gamekeeper convicted of shooting a short-eared owl; 2009 – Leadhills Estate gamekeeper convicted of placing out a poisoned rabbit bait).

Here’s the list, all from Leadhills unless otherwise stated:

2003 April: hen harrier shot [prosecution failed – inadmissible evidence]

2003 April: hen harrier eggs destroyed [prosecution failed – inadmissible evidence]

2004 May: buzzard shot [no prosecution]

2004 May: short-eared owl shot [gamekeeper convicted]

2004 June: buzzard poisoned (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 June: 4 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 June: crow poisoned (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 February: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 April: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 February: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 March: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 April: dead buzzard (persecution method unknown) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned egg baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: 6 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned egg bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: 5 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 April: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 May: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2008 October: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2008 October: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2008 November: 3 x poisoned ravens (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2009 March: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 March: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 April: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [gamekeeper convicted]

2009 April: poisoned magpie (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 April: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2010 October: short-eared owl shot [no prosecution]

2011 March: illegally-set clam trap [no prosecution]

2011 December: buzzard shot [no prosecution]

2012 October: golden eagle shot (just over boundary with Buccleuch Estate) [no prosecution]

2013 May: shot otter found on estate [no prosecution]

2013 June: significant cache of pre-prepared poisoned baits found on estate [no prosecution]

2013 August: red kite found shot and critically-injured in Leadhills village [no prosecution]

2014 February: poisoned peregrine (Carbofuran) [‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2015 April: hen harrier ‘Annie’ found shot [Leadhills/Buccluech] [no prosecution]

2016 May: hen harrier ‘Chance’ ‘disappeared’ [Leadhills/Buccleuch] [no prosecution]

Here’s a photo of one of the many intensively-managed driven grouse moors on Leadhills Estate (photo by RPUK)

We’ve previously blogged about the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate at length and in detail. We know it is a member of landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates (at least it was in 2015, see here) and Earl Hopetoun is still currently listed as the Chair of Scottish Land & Estate’s Moorland Group.

Earl Hopetoun has previously denied that Hopetoun Estate has any involvement with grouse moor management at the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate. In 2012 his spokesperson was quoted:

The Earl of Hopetoun’s position on wildlife crime is unequivocal. He has constantly condemned any such activity. More importantly, Hopetoun Estate has no role whatsoever in the management of Leadhills Estate. Leadhills Estate is run on a sporting lease completely separately and there is no connection between Hopetoun Estate and the sporting management of Leadhills”. 

We disputed this claim about Hopetoun Estates having ‘no role whatsoever in the management of Leadhills Estate’  – see here, here and especially here.

However, at this stage, we’ve gone past the arguments of who owns it, or who owns the sporting lease, or who is responsible for the day-to-day management. Despite Earl Hopetoun’s clear condemnation of raptor persecution, and despite the sporting lease stating clearly that wildlife protection legislation must be adhered to, raptor persecution has been persistent in this area, over a long period of years, and almost all of it has gone unpunished. It is clearly beyond the control of those responsible for managing this land which leaves no other option but for state-regulated control. It’s gone too far. It’s time for the Scottish Government to implement the action that has been promised for years.

Later today we’ll be publishing an open letter on this subject to Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham.

UPDATE 6PM: Open letter to the Cabinet Secretary here

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