Archive for the '2021 persecution incidents' Category

23
Jul
21

Goshawk found shot dead in notorious persecution hotspot in Scotland

Press release from Police Scotland (23 July 2021)

Appeal for information after protected bird of prey found shot in Loch Farr, Inverness-shire

Officers in Inverness are appealing for information after a bird of prey was found dead in the Loch Farr area of Inverness-shire.

A female goshawk was found in a tree in nearby Forestry Land Scotland (FLS) woodland on Saturday, 10 July. The bird was recovered with assistance from the FLS and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Following a post mortem, it was established that the bird had been shot.

[Goshawk photo by Martha de Jong-Lantink]

Wildlife Crime officer Constable Daniel Sutherland said: “This was a cruel and callous act against a protected bird of prey which will simply not be tolerated.

I am grateful to the member of public who came across the bird and reported it to us. Wildlife crime can be challenging to investigate and we work closely with a number of partners to investigate and bring those who seek to destroy or harm wildlife to justice.

I am therefore appealing to anyone with information about this incident or who may have seen anything suspicious in this area to please contact police on 101, quoting reference NM/3907/21. Alternatively, if you wish to remain anonymous, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations said: “It’s both depressing and worrying that in 21st century Scotland, rare and protected birds of prey are still being routinely killed. Goshawks are regularly targeted, even in publicly-owned forests, despite their role as predators of crows and pigeons, species that some people regard as pests.”

Graeme Prest, Regional Manager, North, Forestry and Land Scotland said: “We work hard to safeguard all protected species on our land so it is extremely disappointing to find an incident such as this has taken place on land managed by FLS. We carry out regular monitoring of sites in this area and will continues to work with local police officers, the Highland Partnership against Wildlife Crime and RSPB to ensure that all incidents of wildlife crime are reported and investigated.”

ENDS

First of all, well done to Police Scotland for this relatively speedy appeal for information. There have been a number of cases recently (on which I’ll blog shortly) where there has been a deliberate attempt to withhold information from the public about raptor persecution crimes, in some cases for months and months. That’s not good enough, especially when raptor persecution is supposedly a wildlife crime priority, so I’m very pleased to see this timely press release.

But what about this latest crime? The goshawk was found shot dead on land managed by Forestry and Land Scotland (previously known as Forestry Commission Scotland) and as Ian Thomson says in the press release, this is not a new tactic in areas where goshawks are a perceived threat to gamebirds (e.g. see here, here and here).

Nobody will be at all surprised to learn that the land close to this latest location is managed for gamebird shooting (grouse and pheasants) and that this area of the northern Monadhliaths is recognised as a notorious raptor persecution hotspot, and has been for years and years.

That so-called ‘zero tolerance for raptor persecution’ is going well, then?

09
Jul
21

Pathetic penalty for man who felled active goshawk nest on private estate

Gloucestershire Constabulary has issued a bizarre press release today about the felling of a tree that held an active goshawk nest and how the man who admitted to felling it with a chainsaw ‘had completed a successful restorative justice outcome’ by paying £100 to the RSPB.

Eh? Since when has ‘restorative justice’ been considered an appropriate sanction for felling an active raptor nest? This is supposed to be a national wildlife crime priority! Why wasn’t he charged? In my opinion restorative justice in this case is a massive let off for the offender and the estate – it’s informal, unenforceable and fails to recognise the seriousness of this offence.

[A young goshawk chick in the nest. Photo taken under licence by Ruth Tingay]

Here is the police press release – my commentary on it is below that:

Restorative justice used following tree felling incident which led to destruction of bird nest

A man who unknowingly destroyed a bird of prey nest after cutting down trees has completed a successful restorative justice outcome.

Officers from Gloucestershire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team were called to an estate on the outskirts of Gloucester on Saturday 5 June where it was reported that a tree had been felled causing an active Goshawk Nest to be destroyed.

The man, who is an agricultural labourer, was identified after admitting that he had felled the tree without checking for any bird’s nests.

He attended for a voluntary interview and was ordered to pay a £100 donation to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

A condition was also put into place which allowed Glos Raptors Monitoring Group to access the site so that they can monitor the existing birds of prey, monitor active nests and put cameras up to protect bird of prey habitats.

PC Phil Mawdsley oversaw this saying: “Bird nesting season generally takes place from March to August, however can fall outside of this period and during this time you shouldn’t cut down trees or trim hedges without checking for the presence of birds and it is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to disturb birds or damage their nests and unfortunately this happened after an act of recklessness.

Advice around cutting hedges or trees at this time of year can be found here“.

A spokesperson for the RSPB said: “It appears that this was the only tree in the wood to be felled and then completely removed at a time when it contained an active goshawk nest. Goshawk nests are huge structures and the contents of the nest would be equally obvious.

Goshawks are rare breeding birds and have been subjected to regular persecution through the years, which sadly continues today. To intentionally damage or destroy the active nest of a goshawk, or any wild bird, is against the law. Raptor Persecution is a National Wildlife Crime priority, and the goshawk is a priority species.”

More information on restorative justice in the county can be found here.

ENDS

The press release states that the man claimed to be unaware that the tree held an active goshawk nest. I’m sorry but that is just not credible. This guy is a forester. Anyone who’s spent any time in a wood with an active goshawk nest in the breeding season cannot fail to notice it, and if you’re a forester that spends most days out amongst the trees, there should be absolutely no way you’d miss it. They are huge structures, the ground underneath is littered with white splash and prey remains, and the breeding adults are very, very, very vocal when they alarm call. This is not a cryptic species that cowers down and maintains silence by playing dead when under threat. I would argue that it would be virtually impossible to stand next to the nest tree, fell it with a chainsaw and remove the trunk and all the branches without noticing there was an active goshawk nest in it.

Here is a classic example of a goshawk nest [Photo taken under licence by Ruth Tingay]

I think it’s also interesting to compare Gloucestershire Constabulary’s approach to this crime with that of North Wales Police earlier this year when an active osprey nest was felled with a chainsaw on a nature reserve. The police in that case were, quite rightly, all over the press saying ‘Ospreys are a very rare, highly protected schedule 1 bird – the greatest protection in the UK. We’re pulling all the stops out to try and catch the person or persons responsible for this. Believe me they will receive the full force of the law if we do catch them‘ (see here).

Well, the goshawk is also a very rare, highly protected schedule 1 bird – the greatest protection in the UK. So why this inconsistent approach between police forces to dealing with an offender, especially when in the goshawk case the man who felled the tree has been identified? Is it because goshawks aren’t viewed as being as ‘popular’ as ospreys? Is it because the goshawk nest tree was felled on a private estate (I’m guessing an estate that shoots gamebirds and doesn’t want a pesky goshawk hanging out near the poult release pens)?

The RSPB’s quote in the police press release is quite damning. It is clear that the RSPB Investigations Team doesn’t accept the ridiculous explanation that the forester was ‘unaware’ of the goshawk nest in the tree and they also highlight that this tree was apparently the only one felled in the wood. It’s reminiscent of the felling of the white-tailed eagle nest on Invermark Estate in the Angus Glens a few years ago (here).

The only positive thing about this case is that Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group now have access to the estate to monitor any other raptors that may be present. From the wording of the police press release, this access seems to be ‘a condition’ of the restorative justice process, although whether that’s enforceable if the estate decides to be uncooperative, who knows.

07
Jul
21

Red kite poisoned in North Wales – police appeal for information

North Wales Police Rural Crime Team has issued an appeal on Twitter for information after a toxicology report earlier this month confirmed that a red kite had tested positive for the poison Bendiocarb.

Unfortunately the details of this latest wildlife crime are vague. The kite was found ‘in the area’ of the Ceiriog Valley ‘earlier this year’ and the police believe the poisoning was ‘potentially deliberate’.

That’s it, I’m afraid. No specific location, no details of the circumstances and no date of discovery. [See update below]

There is a police reference number (21000458355) to quote if anyone has any information that could help the police investigation. Please call 101 if you can help.

UPDATE 8th July 2021: Thanks to PC Dewi Evans of the Rural Crime Team for pointing out the following posting on the Rural Crime Team’s Facebook page. For the benefit of those not on Facebook, here’s what it says:

The Rural Crime Team has launched an investigation into the poisoning of a red kite, found dead in the Ceiriog Valley. The bird of prey, protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, was found deceased on February 27th earlier this year and attended to by RSPB Investigations Team. Toxicology tests carried out by the Welsh Government have since revealed the bird tested positive for Bendiocarb – a highly toxic insecticide. Officers believe the incident was potentially a deliberate act and are asking anyone with information to get in touch. It comes following several similar incidents reported in the area over the past three years, with a number of ravens and crows also found to have been poisoned using another substance .PC Dewi Evans, North Wales Police Rural Crime Team manager said: “We suspect the red kite died as a result of the unlawful use of poison and as a result, we have launched an investigation into the incident. “The deliberate poisoning of a bird brings a serious risk to humans and other animals and is hugely irresponsible. “We are currently looking into a potential motive for this incident and ask members of the public who have information to get in touch.” Anybody with information is asked to contact officers at the North Wales Police Rural Crime Team via the website or by calling 101, quoting reference number 21000458355. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

ENDS

06
Jul
21

Rare breeding success for sea eagles in Cairngorms National Park but outlook for chick is bleak

The Cairngorms National Park Authority has issued the following press release today (6th July 2021). My commentary on this news is below the press release:

Raptor breeding successes for East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership

The productivity of breeding raptors in the east of the Cairngorms National Park this season is encouraging and includes the hatching of a sea eagle chick on Balmoral, the first time that the species has successfully bred on the estate.

The breeding pair of sea eagles – also known as white-tailed eagles – have been observed on Balmoral for the last few years. Both adult birds carry satellite tags and close collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has allowed the Balmoral Ranger Service to follow their weekly movements during the breeding season. A healthy male chick has now hatched and been ringed. Three golden eagle chicks have also recently been ringed as part of long-term monitoring on Balmoral.

Balmoral Estate is a member of the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership (ECMP) which has seen breeding success for golden eagles, hen harriers, red kite, osprey, peregrine and merlin, as well as short-eared owls, in 2021, across the various land holdings.

[The young white-tailed eagle chick on the nest at Balmoral. Photo by North East Scotland Raptor Study Group, a member of the Scottish Raptor Study Group]

Richard Gledson, Estate Manager at Balmoral Estate said: “All at Balmoral Estate are delighted that sea eagles have nested successfully for the first time. A previous nesting attempt in 2017 on the same site sadly failed and we have had our fingers crossed since then. The birds have been with us for a couple of years, and we have been working closely with the North East Scotland Raptor Study Group who ringed the chick last week and with the RSPB who have been sending data from their satellite tags.”

Glenavon Estate – which is home to three pairs of golden eagles, including one of the highest nesting sites in Scotland – has had a golden eagle chick satellite tagged for the first time in recent years. Satellite tags are used by biological researchers on a variety of species including eagles and harriers, and provide valuable insight into their movement and survival. Golden eagle chicks have also been tagged on the Glenlivet Estate and Mar Lodge Estate.

Furthermore, Mar Lodge has hosted six hen harrier nests in 2021. One pair failed early in the season, but the other five nests all have chicks. Two hen harrier chicks have been satellite-tagged in collaboration with the RSPB. Evidence from satellite tags fitted to some of the harriers which are now breeding shows that the birds range widely, foraging across ground on neighbouring ECMP estates.

Last year, Mar Estate witnessed the first successful breeding attempt of sea eagles in Deeside for 200 years, but the relatively inexperienced pair failed this season at the hatching stage, with poor weather likely a contributing factor, however hopes are high for success with continued breeding efforts next season and beyond.

Dr Ewan Weston of the North East Scotland Raptor Study Group, who has carried out much of the satellite tagging on ECMP estates, commented: “This year’s raptor tagging on ECMP estates builds on a positive collaboration with the estates over recent years. Despite a very wet, snowy May, the general picture in the area is that raptors, particularly golden eagles, red kites and hen harriers have done well.”

The East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership is a landscape-scale collaboration between five sporting estates and the Cairngorms National Park Authority. The partnership seeks to deliver private interests alongside public benefits, including improving the conservation status of raptors, demonstrating best practice muirburn management, expanding areas of woodland and scrub and peatland restoration. Partners have been collaborating with a wide range of ecologists in the National Park.

Xander McDade, Convenor at the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “We are delighted to hear that productivity of raptors in the east of the National Park looks good for 2021. However, we know that we can still do more for the birds and are committed to finding ways of improving the conservation status of moorland raptors, along with other red and amber moorland bird species. This includes working closely with the five estates that make up the ECMP on a range of conservation measures.”

ENDS

First of all, the breeding success of this pair of white-tailed eagles on Balmoral Estate is obviously very good news and long, long over due.

Norway donated 85 sea eagles for a reintroduction project in eastern Scotland between 2007-2012, although over a quarter of those didn’t survive (the main known causes of death included illegal poisoning, illegally shot, accidentally electrocuted and being hit by trains). The East Coast reintroduction was the third phase of a national reintroduction project that started back in 1975 on the west coast of Scotland, after the species was extirpated from Britain thanks to persecution in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The first successful breeding attempt in east Scotland in 2013, the first for over a century, was an historic milestone in the project and was hoped to be the beginning of a new and vibrant population in the east, mirroring the successful population growth in the west.

So far though, progress has been incredibly slow and ongoing persecution has been at the centre of that (e.g. see here for the news that a sea eagle’s nest tree was deliberately felled on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens, also in 2013-nobody was prosecuted).

A number of young satellite-tagged sea eagles have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on or next to grouse moors since then, and only last year a young sea eagle was found dead, illegally poisoned, on another grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park (see here). Nobody was prosecuted for that crime.

[A police officer examines the corpse of the illegally poisoned sea eagle found dead on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park in 2020. Photo by Police Scotland].

So yes, it’s excellent news that Balmoral Estate has hosted a successful breeding attempt this year – well done to the team there – but it’s only half of the story. What happens when that young eagle fledges and disperses from Balmoral later this year?

Will it meet the same fate as this young golden eagle, which fledged from a nest site in the eastern Cairngorms last year and was found dead, ‘deliberately poisoned’ on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate earlier this year?

[An illegally poisoned golden eagle, laying next to a poisoned mountain hare bait, found dead on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park in 2021. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

I can see why the Cairngorms National Park Authority would want to issue this press release – not just to deservedly celebrate the successful breeding attempt on Balmoral Estate but probably more cynically, to try and undo some of the reputational damage that has been caused to the Park Authority and to its Eastern Cairngorms Moorland Partnership (ECMP) after the discovery of the poisoned golden eagle earlier this year on one of the ECMP’s partner estates (now no longer a partner) and the deserved criticism that the Park Authority has received for refusing to publish the correspondence it had had with the ECMP about the future of Invercauld Estate as a member of the ECMP following the discovery of the poisoned eagle (see here). This is the same tactic the Park Authority employed a few years ago when illegally-set traps were found on Invercauld Estate (here).

The ECMP can thank its lucky stars that one of its (now five) member estates is Mar Lodge, owned by the National Trust for Scotland, and with a glowing reputation for raptor conservation, especially for breeding hen harriers. Without Mar Lodge’s efforts, the ECMP’s raptor conservation efforts would be looking pretty feeble to date.

Although I noted the irony of the statement in the Park Authority’s press release that, ‘Evidence from satellite tags fitted to some of the harriers which are now breeding shows that the birds range widely, foraging across ground on neighbouring ECMP estates‘.

Er, yeah, but they forgot to mention how many of those hen harriers subsequently ‘disappear’ in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors in the ECMP and beyond (e.g. see here).

It doesn’t matter how far the Park Authority tries to spin the very welcome but too infrequent ‘good news’ stories like the breeding white-tailed eagles on Balmoral – the bottom line remains that large areas of the Cairngorms National Park are still raptor persecution hotspots and until that changes, the outlook for this young sea eagle is bleak.

01
Jul
21

Poisoned golden eagle: Cairngorms National Park Authority refuses to publish correspondence with Invercauld Estate

In March this year, a golden eagle was found dead, next to a poisoned hare bait, on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park.

Toxicology results showed the eagle had been illegally poisoned with a banned pesticide. Police Scotland conducted a multi-agency search, under warrant, of various properties on Invercauld Estate in May 2021 (here) and issued an appeal for information on what they described as a ‘deliberate’ poisoning (here).

The Cairngorms National Park Authority issued a statement condemning the deliberate poisoning (here).

Invercauld Estate also issued a statement, supporting the police investigation and denying that the deliberately poisoned eagle was found on land managed for grouse shooting – even though, er, it seems that it was (see here and here).

[The deliberately poisoned golden eagle, next to the poisoned hare bait, on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate, March 2021. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

The following week, the Cairngorms National Park Authority published a further statement, this time on behalf of the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership (ECMP), a consortium of six estates, including Invercauld, supposedly working in partnership with the Park Authority since 2015 to deliver ‘coordinated and sustainable moorland management’.

The statement from ECMP (read in full here) confirmed that Invercauld Estate ‘had left the group‘. There was no indication whether Invercauld had been expelled or had resigned of its own accord or what process, if any, had been undertaken to reach a decision.

So I submitted an FoI to the Cairngorms National Park Authority to try and find out.

Here’s part of the response I received:

This response came as no surprise to me because the Cairngorms National Park Authority has form for covering up the consequences of alleged criminal behaviour on Invercauld Estate – e.g. see here, here and here. The Park’s Board also has a number of members with a clear association with Invercauld Estate – whether this had any bearing on the Park’s decision about what to release and what not to release can only be open to speculation, obviously, because the information is being withheld. Again.

Still, as long it’s being withheld to allow Police Scotland to ‘complete their investigation’, which of course the CNPA will know (or at least can predict) to be going absolutely nowhere, just like the other ~80+ raptor persecution crimes uncovered in the Cairngorms National Park since 2003 that, with a single exception, haven’t resulted in a prosecution.

Part of the material that the CNPA did release suggests that Invercauld Estate resigned and wasn’t pushed (see below) although without seeing the full correspondence between the estate and the CNPA I’d be wary of drawing any conclusion because it just doesn’t add up, given Invercauld’s protestations when the news first broke that this eagle had been found poisoned on that estate.

This is a copy of an email sent from the CNPA’s Chief Executive, Grant Moir, to the Board. It’s a bit difficult to read with such a tiny font so it’s transcribed below:

Dear Board Member

The East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership will shortly be putting out the attached statement following a meeting of the partnership yesterday. At the meeting the partnership heard from Invercauld estate and Invercauld estate tendered their resignation from the partnership. After a good discussion the partners agreed to the resignation and have all agreed to the wording of the attached statement. It was also clear from the meeting that the remaining members are determined to make the partnership work.

NatureScot have also released a statement today which indicates they are looking at general licence restrictions for Invercauld Estate.

Throughout I have been keeping the Convenor of the Board up to speed on the issues and I will update the board further on Friday if there is any further information.

All the best

Grant

Grant Moir, Chief Executive, Cairngorms National Park Authority

So what of the Police’s ongoing investigation in to this deliberately poisoned golden eagle? No further news (but I trust they’ll be asking the CNPA for copies of the unpublished correspondence between Invercauld and the Park Authority because apparently it’s relevant to the police investigation).

Will NatureScot decide to impose a General Licence restriction on Invercauld Estate? No news.

What of the future of the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership? A recent blog addressing this very issue from Nick Kempe writing for ParkswatchScotland is well worth a read (here).

And what of the Scottish Government’s promise to get to work on drafting the terms and conditions of a grouse shooting licensing scheme, whereby estates can lose their licence if raptor persecution crimes continue? No further news.

29
Jun
21

Shot peregrine successfully rehabbed and released back to wild

In May this year an eight-year-old female peregrine was found injured in the grounds of Selby Abbey suffering from being shot with a shotgun (see here).

North Yorkshire Police appealed for information and the peregrine was treated by specialist vets at Battle Flatts before being taken in to the expert care of the remarkable Jean Thorpe at Ryedale Wildlife Rescue.

One month on, the peregrine has recovered and has been successfully released back in to the wild at the Lower Derwent Valley National Nature Reserve:

Massive kudos and thanks to Jean and to the vets at Battle Flatts who are dealing with these victims time and time again. Some of the birds’ injuries are too severe for any hope of recovery but every now and then this dedicated team gets a win, like this one. All credit to them.

North Yorkshire Police are still investigating the circumstances of this latest crime (injured peregrine found 7th May 2021). If you have any information about this incident please call North Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting ref: 12210119786, or if you wish to remain anonymous please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

28
Jun
21

Peregrine nest raided in Peak District National Park

Press release from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (21 June 2021)

Peregrine nest raided in Upper Derwent Valley, Peak District

A nest with 3 young peregrines in it has been robbed in a remote part of the Peak District National Park on land owned by the Forestry Commission.

This is despite efforts by a number of organisations to step up their protection efforts at Peregrine nesting sites at risk across the Peak District this Spring.

Peregrines, along with their eggs and nests, are legally protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. It is a criminal offence to intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or take a peregrine.

Derbyshire Rural Crime Team are investigating this crime and are appealing to anyone who has any information to contact them on 101 or to use Crimestoppers.

[Photo from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust]

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and partners are shocked that one of our most iconic birds are still being targeted in this way by wildlife criminals.

Peregrines are an iconic part of the Peak District’s natural heritage and the theft of young peregrines jeopardises the recovery of this much persecuted species.

Tim Birch at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said: “It is very sad that a peregrine nest with 3 young peregrines have been robbed. We all lose when this happens. Thousands of people visit the Peak District National Park every year to walk in stunning scenery and have the opportunity to watch these magnificent birds in the wild. Robbing this nest deprives people from being able to have the chance to see such a wonderful bird. We need to see tougher sentences that reflect the seriousness of this crime and to act as a deterrent.”

Mark Thomas, RSPB Head of Investigations UK, said: “Scientific data and crime reports show that raptor persecution is endemic in the Peak District National Park, particularly impacting iconic species like peregrine and goshawk: this is despite both the species and landscape having the fullest legal protection in the UK. These crimes have been statistically linked to land managed for driven grouse shooting. Furthermore, the site in question has suffered repeat incidents of raptor persecution on many previous occasions and only recently an adult peregrine was found poisoned close by. More has to be done as it is clear the initiatives in place are failing.”

Shona Morton, Planning and Environment Manager for the Forestry Commission said: “Forestry England’s woods are home to a wealth of important birdlife, including many birds of prey. Our ecologists and operational teams work hard to create and restore wildlife habitats and ensure birds nesting on our land are safeguarded during forestry activities. We are very upset to learn that this Peregrine pair have been robbed of their young on our land. We work closely with local volunteer groups and conservationists to locate new nests each year and monitor breeding success- crimes like this undermine everything we’re trying to achieve together. Sadly the Peak District remains a hot spot for raptor persecution and we would encourage anyone who sees suspicious activity on the public forest estate to alert us and contact the police. We will be collaborating with the police and our partners to identify and prosecute those responsible. We will continue our work with partners and neighbouring landowners to ensure birds of prey like Peregrines, Goshawk and Hen Harriers can regain their rightful place in the Peak District’s skies.”

The loss of these young birds is a huge blow to the work that is currently being undertaken to try and protect peregrines and ensure that they are allowed to prosper in the Peak District. In 2020 an adult male peregrine was found dead very close to the site that was recently robbed. Tests later proved that the bird had been poisoned. In 2019 young peregrines also disappeared from this site. Other nests are still being monitored across the Peak District at the moment to assess how Peregrines have fared this breeding season but numbers of breeding pairs in line with other years are far lower than expected from information already gathered.

 ENDS

17
Jun
21

Red kite shot in Wales, now rehabbed & released

Press release from RSPCA (14th April 2021)

Red kite released after shot bird was rescued and rehabilitated

An inspector who rescued an injured red kite who was found beside a road unable to fly has filmed the magical moment she released the majestic bird back into the wild after a month of rehabilitation.

Our inspector Suzi Smith had been called to rescue the bird after a concerned member of the public found the red kite unable to take off because of an injured wing.

Found at the side of the A470 in Builth Wells on March 16, the bird was safely captured by Suzi before being taken to Vale Wildlife Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre to be assessed. While there, vets x-rayed the bird and discovered that the kite had been shot.

Suzi, who has been rescuing animals for us for twenty years, said:

It was an honour to be able to release this beauty after weeks of treatment and rehab at Vale Wildlife Hospital.

The bird had been shot, and had a guarded prognosis but the team at Vale worked their magic and the red kite has thankfully been able to go back into the wild where they belong.

It’s very upsetting to think that this beautiful bird was deliberately targeted and shot and this is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Anyone with any information about how this bird came to be harmed is urged to call our inspector appeal line on 0300 123 8018.”

All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and it’s an offence to kill, injure or take wild birds except under licence. The maximum penalty, if found guilty, is six months in prison and or an unlimited fine.

ENDS

Thanks to the blog reader who alerted me to this press release from April 2021. I don’t recall seeing any appeal for information in March 2021 when this bird was picked up injured by the side of the road.

Great work by the team at Vale Wildlife Hospital.

UPDATE 7th July 2021: Appeal after red kite wounded by shotgun pellets (here)

30
May
21

Game-shooting industry called out on raptor persecution by one of its own

It’s been almost four weeks since we learned that a deliberately poisoned golden eagle was found on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park (see here).

This abhorrent wildlife crime is just about as serious and high profile as it gets.

[The poisoned golden eagle and the poisoned bait. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

The golden eagle (along with the white-tailed eagle) has the highest level of protection of any bird species in Scotland (not just the bog standard protection given to all bird species, but the gold standard that includes protection of its nest site and protection from harassment all year round).

It’s an iconic species, loved by millions and on most wildlife lovers’ list of ‘must-sees’ when they visit Scotland.

The Cairngorms National Park is supposed to be the UK’s jewel in the crown and again is on the list of ‘must-sees’ for many visitors to Scotland.

It’s no wonder then, that when one of those wild golden eagles is found slumped and cold in the heather on a prestigious estate in the Cairngorms National Park, right next to a poisoned mountain hare bait deliberately placed to kill wildlife, the news is going to be both shocking and prominent.

And it was.

So how come the game-shooting industry has, on the whole, remained silent about this disgraceful crime? The only statement from a shooting organisation that I could find was from Scottish Land & Estates, the landowner’s lobby group. The statement was vague and short on detail (no mention that the golden eagle had been illegally poisoned and no mention that the eagle’s corpse and the poisoned bait had been discovered on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate, an SLE member, no less, and that this isn’t the first time the estate has been under investigation).

Still, at least SLE published something. As far as I can tell, almost four weeks on there is no statement of condemnation on the websites of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, BASC, GWCT, Countryside Alliance, or Scottish Association for Country Sports.

Doesn’t that silence speak volumes?

I’ve thought a lot about why these organisations, with their vociferous claims of having ‘zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution, should remain silent on such a high profile crime when all eyes are upon them. I haven’t been able to come up with a reasonable explanation because there simply isn’t one. There’s no reasonable explanation, or excuse, for not condemning this crime. None at all.

But where there is ground to benefit is in plausible deniability. In that, if nobody acknowledges that this crime even happened, then the constant denials that there’s even an issue, let alone that it’s an out of control issue, can continue. Think about it. The denials can’t continue if the organisations have previously acknowledged and condemned a recent raptor persecution crime. So the strategy seems to be, shut up, say nothing and it’ll all blow over soon and then we can get back to pretending how much we love raptors whilst simultaneously campaigning for licences to kill them and turning a blind eye every time another one gets taken out on land managed for gamebird shooting.

I’m not the only one to notice the silence and the denial.

The following letter was published in this week’s Shooting Times:

The recent disturbing news of a police raid on Invercauld estate after the discovery of a poisoned golden eagle next to a bait should disgust and anger all in the shooting community. Sadly, for quite a few members of that community, these feelings of revulsion will not be felt.

If any readers can steel themselves to check out the Raptor Persecution UK blog they will find a sickening list [here] of illegally killed raptors from all around the Cairngorms.

If, as shooting’s representative organisations keep telling us, “it’s a few bad apples”, I would suggest that this area of Scotland could well contain the orchard.

Invercauld is one of the most prominent sporting estates in Scotland, with a reputation to uphold around the world, yet this is not the first time it has been investigated in recent years.

This begs the question, how many similar crimes go undiscovered? More pertinently, when they are discovered, how often is the burden of proof insufficient to bring a prosecution?

This fact is well known to the perpetrators, and should be borne in mind when the relative scarcity of successful prosecutions is used by the industry’s representatives to deny the scale of the problem.

Paul Tooley, by email.

I don’t know who Paul Tooley is, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn this Paul Tooley (above) is the same as this Paul Tooley or this Paul Tooley (scroll down to comments section).

Whoever he is, bloody well done for calling out these organisations.

Although as a campaigner I shouldn’t really mind the industry’s silence. In my view it’s indicative of complicity / covering up / shielding the guilty and that just means we’re another step closer to toppling this filthy ‘sport’.

29
May
21

Police officer charged with alleged wildlife crime offences after multi-agency raid in Scotland

From an article in today’s Daily Record:

Scots cop charged after dawn raid uncovers ‘peregrine falcon eggs’ kept at rural home

Police Scotland have confirmed that a total of three people have been arrested and charged in connection with wildlife offences at a property in Berwick-upon-Tweed

By Sarah Vesty, reporter

[Peregrine falcon with chicks. Photo by Getty Images]

A serving Police Scotland officer has been charged in connection with alleged wildlife offences after an early-morning raid at her home.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is set to appear at Jedburgh Sheriff Court alongside two men, aged 45 and 20, on an undertaking next week.

Officers swooped on the rural property in Berwick-upon-Tweed on Tuesday, May 18, as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of serious organised crime.

Joined by the Scottish SPCA, they are understood to have seized a number of peregrine falcon eggs and chicks from the address.

Police Scotland have confirmed that three people have been arrested in connection with the recovery and that their “enquiries remain ongoing”.

A force spokesperson said: “Officers executed a warrant in the early hours of Tuesday, 18, May, at a property in Lamberton Holdings in Berwick-upon-Tweed in connection with an ongoing investigation.

Two men, aged 20 and 45 years, and a 43-year-old woman have been arrested and charged in connection with wildlife offences.

They are due to appear at Jedburgh Sheriff Court at a later date. Enquiries are continuing.”

A Scottish SPCA special investigations unit inspector, who cannot be named due to undercover operations, said: “We can confirm we assisted Police Scotland in relation to a warrant regarding wildlife offences at a property in Lamberton Holdings in Berwick-upon-Tweed.”

Peregrine falcons are protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act meaning it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb them near or on an active nest.

The species has historically suffered from persecution and pesticide poisoning with their numbers dwindling to their lowest levels in the 1960s.

Scottish specimens of the bird – which can dive at more than 200mph – are highly prized in the Middle East where they are used for racing by wealthy sheikhs.

Stronger legislation has helped increase the number of falcons in the wild however they are still persecuted for preying on game birds and racing pigeons.

Their eggs have also previously been stolen to order for private collections and falconry.

ENDS

Please note: as this is a live investigation and individuals have been charged I will not be accepting comments on this article until legal proceedings have ended. Thanks.




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