Archive for the '2018 persecution incidents' Category

20
Feb
19

Buzzard shot and poisoned in East Yorkshire: police renew appeal for info

Press release from Humberside Police (20 Feb 2019)

Poisoned buzzard East Yorkshire, renewed appeal for information

On the 2nd October 2018 Humberside Police appealed for information regarding the discovery of a dead Common Buzzard, which x-rays showed as having three shotgun pellets within its body [Ed: see RPUK blog here]. These were old injuries but the bird also had more recent injuries to its head, which at that time were suspected to have possibly come about by having been confined within a cage trap.

A detailed examination of the body and its food content has now revealed that the Buzzard had ingested food containing the highly toxic pesticide aldicarb. This substance has been banned for use and possession for over 10 years. It is one of several highly toxic pesticides which are abused by adding them to a bait like a dead rabbit to kill scavengers such as crows and foxes. Carrion eating birds such as Red Kites and Buzzards often become victims.

Several birds of prey including Red Kites and Buzzards have been recorded as being killed by the use of aldicarb in previous years at various locations within the East Riding of Yorkshire including near Market Weighton and Pocklington.

The bird involved in this incident during 2018 was discovered between Millington and Huggate in the East Riding of Yorkshire which is very popular with walkers. The exact circumstances of the bird’s death and how exactly it sustained all its injuries are unclear which is often the case with these offences. What is clear is that it had been shot previously and then ingested a banned toxic substance at a later date. Offences such as this are crimes under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which are punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.

Wildlife and Rural Crime lead Chief Inspector Paul Butler said: ”Enquiries have so far failed to identify who is responsible for this particular crime but are ongoing. The continued use of these chemicals is highly irresponsible and there is no excuse for it whatsoever. Anyone undertaking any form of pest or predator control should ensure they operate within the law and best practice guidance. Those disregarding it for whatever reason should be aware that it is not acceptable and that my Wildlife Crime Team officers are actively seeking them out”.

Anyone with information about who is using these chemicals or involved in the persecution of birds of prey by any means are encouraged to come forward with this information which will be treated with the utmost confidentiality. Raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority which Humberside Police takes very seriously and works alongside other agencies to investigate offences.

If you think you have found a poisoned victim or bait do not touch them, cover them over if possible, warn others to keep away, note the exact location, take photos and report it to the police straight away.

Guy Shorrock, Senior Investigations Officer at the RSPB, stated: “There have been a number of incidents in the East Riding area involving the poisoning of buzzards by this highly toxic banned pesticide. We are grateful for police enquires into this latest case and would urge anyone with information to contact them. You can also contact the RSPB in strictest confidence on 0300 999 0101 if you have any information about birds of prey being illegally killed in your area”.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation should call Humberside Police on the non-emergency number 101 quoting investigation number 16/99978/18 which is being dealt with by WCO PC 1529 Day.

ENDS

The RSPB has also written a blog about this case, here

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19
Feb
19

Heap of poisoned ravens found on Welsh/English border

Press release from RSPB (19 February 2019)

Ravens found poisoned on farmland

West Mercia Police undertook an investigation after ten dead ravens, a dead crow and parts of a dead lamb were found close together on farmland near Vron Woods, Beguildy on the Wales/Shropshire border.

The birds were reported to the RSPB and collected by Natural England in April 2018, who sent the birds to be tested. Government toxicology tests on five of the ravens, the crow and the lamb confirmed the presence of Diazinon. This is a veterinary product, used legally for sheep dip, but which is known to have been used illegally to poison wildlife. It is believed the lamb carcass was deliberately laced with Diazinon for this purpose.

[Poisoned raven, photo by Ed Blane, Natural England]

[Photo of the ten ravens and one crow bagged up for removal, by Ed Blane, Natural England]

Birds of prey and ravens are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. Police interviewed a local person under caution but, due to lack of evidence, the case could go no further.

Ravens are a recovering species which breed mainly in Wales, Scotland, and Western and Northern England.

Jenny Shelton from RSPB Investigations said: “Shropshire has a history of Diazinon abuse for the purpose of illegally targeting birds of prey and other protected species. We are grateful to Natural England and the police for investigating this matter, which poses a serious threat to wildlife and people. Ravens are incredibly intelligent creatures, able solve problems and form memories similar to our own. These once-scarce birds are gradually starting to recover after persistent persecution at the hands of humans, so it’s disturbing to hear of incidents like this still taking place.

This area is also a stronghold for red kites – another bird making a comeback after disappearing entirely from England due to persecution. Poison baits pose a danger to these birds too.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call West Mercia Police on 101.

The RSPB is urging people to be vigilant and report dead birds of prey or ravens this spring – a key time of year for illegal poisoning to take place. If you find a dead bird of prey or raven beside a carcass that could be a poison bait, contact the government hotline on 0800 321600. Alternatively contact the police on 101 or RSPB investigations on 01767 680551.

Note: These investigations take time, as do the toxicology tests, and we realise there has been some delay in publicising this. But we feel this is an important story to tell.

ENDS

25
Jan
19

SGA’s claims about hen harrier Saorsa “completely false”, says RSPB

Further to our lunchtime blog (here) about the Scottish Gamekeepers Association fabricating a story about a supposed “re-sighting” of a satellite-tagged hen harrier (Saorsa) who disappeared in suspicious circumstances in the Angus Glens in February 2018, the RSPB has just issued the following press statement:

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations said; “The SGA’s claims about the hen harrier “Saorsa” are completely false and are totally at odds with what the police have informed us today. This bird has been missing since February 2018, when it was reported to the police. There isn’t a shred of evidence to support the claim that it has reappeared, and its tag has not transmitted any data since the date of it vanishing in suspicious circumstances.

The SGA has refused to attend meetings of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime since the publication of the Scottish Government’s review of satellite tagging in May 2017, and has consistently refused to accept the findings of that review. Their repeated baseless attempts to discredit proven technology and question the reputations of respected scientists and Scottish Government reports are entirely due to the fact that the use of this technology is shining an increasingly bright light on the widespread criminality associated with intensive grouse moor management.”

ENDS

[Hen harrier Saorsa has not been since since she disappeared in suspicious circumstances in the Angus Glens in Feb 2018. Photo by Brian Etheridge]

UPDATE 28 January 2019: More on the SGA’s “completely false” claim that hen harrier Saorsa has been re-sighted (here)

25
Jan
19

SGA fabricates ‘news’ on missing sat-tagged hen harrier Saorsa

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has issued a press release today claiming that a satellite-tagged hen harrier (named Saorsa) that disappeared in suspicious circumstances in the Angus Glens last yearwas re-sighted in Perthshire“.

This is a complete fabrication. We’ve spoken to the RSPB (who tagged this harrier) and they’ve confirmed that Saorsa remains ‘missing in suspicious circumstances’ with no reports of either a “re-sighting” or further data from her tag since it stopped working, suddenly and inexplicably, in February 2018 in the notorious Angus Glens. We expect the RSPB will be issuing a press statement to this effect in due course.

[UPDATE 25 Jan 2019: SGA’s claims about hen harrier Saorosa “completely false”, says RPSB (here)]

Later today we’ll be posting the SGA’s press statement in full and taking it apart line by line. As you might expect, it contains many inaccuracies (which is a generous way of saying malicious falsehoods) about the process of satellite-tagging raptors in Scotland and is designed to undermine and discredit the vast amount of damaging evidence these tags provide about the ongoing criminal destruction of birds of prey on Scottish grouse moors.

For now, this blog is a placeholder for those members of the press who have asked us for a comment about Saorsa’s supposed resurrection.

More shortly…..

[Photo of Saorsa as a nestling, by Brian Etheridge]

UPDATE 28 January 2019: More on the SGA’s “completely false” claim that hen harrier Saorsa has been re-sighted (here)

21
Jan
19

Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘River’ disappears on grouse moor in Nidderdale AONB, North Yorkshire

RSPB press release (21 January 2019):

Hen harrier ‘River’ disappears in suspicious circumstances

The police and the RSPB are investigating the sudden disappearance of yet another satellite tagged hen harrier in North Yorkshire, the county with the worst reputation for bird of prey persecution.

The bird, named River, was one of several hen harrier chicks in England fitted with a satellite tag as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project last summer (2018). These lightweight tags allow the RSPB to monitor the birds after they fledge.

[Photo of hen harrier ‘River’, by RSPB]

Her tag’s last known transmission came from a driven grouse moor between Colsterdale and Nidderdale – an area with a history of bird of prey persecution – on 14 November. She was known to have been hunting and roosting in the area for several weeks. RSPB Investigations staff and North Yorkshire Police searched the area, but there was no sign of the bird or the tag. She has not been heard from since.

[Google map showing location of Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in North Yorkshire]

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. North Yorkshire Police investigated the disappearance, but no information has been forthcoming.

Hen harriers are rare birds which nest in moorland, especially in the uplands of Northern England and Scotland. However just nine nests were recorded in England last year, despite enough prey and habitat to support over 300 pairs. They have not successfully bred in North Yorkshire since 2007.

Over 30 hen harriers were tagged last summer in the UK. Between August and November 2018, nine of these, including a 10th bird tagged in 2017, disappeared at different locations in the UK.

Mark Thomas, Head of RSPB Investigations UK, said: “Again we have news of a disappeared harrier, again in North Yorkshire, and again last known to be on a grouse moor. Hen harriers are barely clinging on as a breeding species in England. They should be a common and joyful sight over the moorlands of North Yorkshire, however the reality is most people only know them as being rare and persecuted.

The idea that this bird may have been deliberately targeted is incredibly worrying, especially in the context of eight others which have vanished in similar circumstances. When a tagged hen harrier dies naturally, we expect the tag to continue transmitting, enabling us to find the body. This was not the case here. Instead, there was no trace of the tag or the bird, which is highly suspicious. When hen harriers disappear like this over an area with a history of raptor persecution, it’s hard not to draw conclusions.”

The RSPB’s latest Birdcrime report showed that North Yorkshire is consistently the worst county in the UK for recorded bird of prey persecution, accumulating significantly more confirmed incidents in the last five years than anywhere else. In 2012, hen harrier ‘Bowland Betty’ was found shot at nearby Colsterdale. A reward was offered but no culprit was identified.

If you have any information relating to this incident, call North Yorkshire Police on 101.

If you know about raptor persecution occurring in your area and wish to speak out in confidence, call the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB Investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form here.

ENDS

So, yet another young sat-tagged hen harrier ‘disappears’ in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire. It’s becoming quite the routine, isn’t it?

Here’s an RPUK map showing the approximate last known locations of at least ten satellite-tagged hen harriers that have all ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances inside the Nidderdale AONB (yellow boundary) or neighbouring Yorkshire Dales National Park in recent years. The red triangle represents River’s approximate last known location and the red star represents Bowland Betty, the hen harrier that was found shot here in 2012:

Interestingly, Bowland Betty’s shot corpse was found on a grouse moor on Swinton Estate and it appears that River’s last known tag transmission was from close by.

RPUK map showing approximate last known location of hen harrier River (red triangle) and the approximate location of Bowland Betty’s shot corpse (red star):

And as anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time will know, Nidderdale AONB is also known as being a hotspot for the illegal killing of red kites. Many of them have been found shot or poisoned on or close to grouse moors throughout Nidderdale (see map below) and those doing the killing are so brazen they don’t even bother to hide the corpses, safe in the knowledge they’ll never be prosecuted.

[RPUK map: Nidderdale AONB = yellow boundary. Illegally killed red kites = red circles; sat-tagged hen harriers that have vanished in suspicious circumstances = orange stars & red triangle; illegally shot hen harrier Bowland Betty = red star]

When you look at these maps, and especially the one that combines hen harriers and red kites, you understand the relentless criminality involved and the impact these crimes can have on local, regional and sometimes national populations of some species.

And yet still, the Westminster Government refuses to acknowledge there’s even a problem, let alone the scale of it.

This year we’re encouraging blog readers to write to/email your local MP every time one of these crimes is reported. If you live in the local area, even better, but even if you live hundreds of miles away, please still take action. These are birds that you will not have the opportunity to see in your area because they’ve been ruthlessly slaughtered, usually on or close to a driven grouse moor. This is a matter of national concern but politicians won’t take notice unless their constituents raise the issue with them.

Do it, it’s easy and will take up little of your time. Just a quick and simple email is enough.

If you don’t know who your MP is, use this website to find them via your postcode HERE

Thanks

10
Jan
19

Raptor smuggler Jeffrey Lendrum receives 3 year custodial sentence

Following yesterday’s blog on serial raptor egg smuggler Jeffrey Lendrum’s guilty plea at Snaresbrook Crown Court (here), he has been sentenced to serve three years and one month in jail.

Press release from UK Border Force (10/1/19):

WILDLIFE CRIMINAL JAILED FOR RARE BIRD EGGS IMPORTATION ATTEMPT

A man who tried to smuggle 19 rare and endangered bird eggs into the UK strapped to his body has today, 10 January, been jailed for three years and one month.

The smuggling attempt was uncovered by Border Force officers at Heathrow Airport on 26 June 2018 when officers stopped Jeffrey Lendrum after he arrived on a flight from Johannesburg.

Lendrum, 57 and of no fixed UK address, was wearing a heavy jacket which officers thought was unusual due to the very warm weather conditions. When asked whether he had anything to declare, Lendrum stated he had some Fish Eagle and Kestrel eggs strapped to his body. During a full search, he was found to be wearing a body belt concealing 19 bird eggs as well as 2 newly-hatched chicks.

Border Force specialist officers identified that the eggs were protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the import trade for which is controlled by the issue of permits. Officers ensured that both the eggs and the live chicks were kept warm and quickly transported to the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre, managed by the City of London Corporation. The live chicks and the eggs were later moved to a specialist care facility at the International Centre for Birds of Prey.

Lendrum was arrested and the investigation passed to the National Crime Agency (NCA). Lendrum stated during an interview that his intention was to rescue the eggs after he encountered some men chopping down trees containing their nests. However in court, experts stated that a number of the eggs were from birds that nest in cliffs. Their values on the black market ranged from £2,000 to £8,000.

At Snaresbrook Crown Court on Tuesday (8 January) Lendrum, who has previous convictions for similar CITES offences in Canada, Brazil and Africa, pleaded guilty to attempting to import the 19 bird eggs.

Grant Miller, head of the national Border Force CITES team at Heathrow, said:

My officers are experts in their field and, in this case, their vigilance has stopped a prolific wildlife criminal in his tracks. Their intervention also ensured that the birds and eggs received the immediate care and attention that they needed.

Wildlife crime is a global issue and Border Force officers play a crucial role in preventing offenders from moving the products across borders, stripping them of their illegal profits.

We will continue to work closely with enforcement partners such as the NCA to tackle the international illegal wildlife trade which threatens the survival of endangered animals and plants“.

Chris Hill, NCA investigations manager Heathrow, said:

This offence was clearly no accident as Lendrum had gone to great lengths to both source and then attempt to conceal the birds eggs. His claims that he was engaged in an effort to save them from deforestation did not hold water.

Wildlife crime is a cynical business, indulged in by those who have no qualms about the environmental damage they cause as long as there is a profit to be made. This case sends a clear message that we are determined to bring cases like this before the courts“.

The importation of endangered species into the UK is strictly controlled by CITES, which is an international agreement covering more than 35,000 species of animals and plants. The Heathrow-based Border Force CITES team are specialist officers who work across the UK and who are recognised as world leaders in their field.

Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling and trafficking of any kind should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

ENDS

Well done to all involved, especially the UK Border Force and the National Crime Agency. This is an excellent result.

08
Jan
19

Marsh harrier found illegally shot

The RSPB Investigations Team is reporting the discovery of a shot Marsh harrier.

This bird was discovered critically injured on the river bank near Barton-upon-Humber in North Lincolnshire on 9th  September 2018. A dog walker reported it to the RSPCA and it was also reported to the police. An RSPCA officer took the harrier to the East Winch Wildlife Centre near Boston where an x-ray revealed it had been shot. The bird later died from its injuries.

[Photo by RSPCA]

Humberside Police investigated but were unable to identify the criminal responsible.

If anyone has any information relating to this incident, call Humberside Police on 101 quoting crime reference number 16/115793/18.

Further details on the RSPB Investigations blog here

Marsh harriers are increasingly in the firing line, whether it’s on lowland game shooting estates (e.g. here), on land adjacent to an RSPB Reserve (e.g. here) or on upland grouse moors (e.g. here).

And let’s not forget (as several people did) the grouse shooting industry’s interest in obtaining licences to kill Marsh harriers to prevent the so-called ‘disruption’ of driven grouse shoots.




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