Archive for the 'News' Category

18
Jul
19

Wild Justice challenges annual release of 50 million non-native gamebirds

Wild Justice has launched its second legal challenge, asking DEFRA to assess the impact of releasing ~50 million non-native game birds in to the countryside every year.

You can read about it here on the Wild Justice blog.

If you’d like to support this challenge, please consider making a small contribution to the crowdfunder here.

Much more on this developing story in due course.

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18
Jul
19

SNH ‘considering the merits’ of adding Ravens to General Licence for unregulated slaughter

This is quite unbelievable, even by the low standards of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

SNH is ‘considering the merits’ of adding ravens to General Licence #2, which effectively means that gamekeepers and farmers will be able to kill as many as they like, on the flimsiest of evidence (i.e. nothing more substantial than an old wives tale required), without any accountability or reporting whatsoever.

[Photo by Dieter Schaeffer]

SNH has slipped this news out quietly, probably hoping that nobody would notice.

Yesterday it was announced that SNH was opening up a 12-week consultation on its annual General Licences, a year earlier than planned following the successful legal challenge by Wild Justice of the General Licences in operation in England.

SNH’s press release said nothing about adding ravens to the General Licences, of course. It’s only when you start the consultation ‘survey’ and get a few pages in that you find this:

The Scotsman has picked up on this already and has an article today that includes a damning statement from Andy Wightman MSP:

SNH is meant to protect Scotland’s natural heritage, but once again it has shown it is completely unable to stand up to vested interests. I hope that they will walk away from these ridiculous proposals to kill yet more wildlife and focus on stopping the epidemic of wildlife persecution that continues across Scotland.”

We probably shouldn’t be that surprised by this latest move from SNH, given that the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has lobbied for years to get ravens (and various raptor species) added to the General Licences (e.g. see here). The quality of the so-called ‘evidence’ in support of such slaughter schemes has been exceptionally poor, as you’d expect from those with a vested interest in killing everything that so much as looks at a red grouse. And seeing as SNH is supposed to base its decisions on scientific evidence, claims that ‘the sky is full of ravens’ or ‘a raven stole my baby’ shouldn’t really cut it but then this is SNH we’re talking about, who approved the mass culling of ravens in Strathbraan last year on the ludicrous basis of ‘seeing what happens‘.

We’ll be saying much more about this in due course but in the meantime please consider completing the consultation survey and expressing your views. The survey is available HERE and is open until 9th October 2019.

16
Jul
19

Scottish Government statement on recent raptor persecution crimes

The Scottish Government has finally made a statement about the recent raptor persecution crimes.

The statement is about as impressive as the one from Leadhills Estate, just shorter but no less pathetic.

It appears to be a forced statement, made after a direct request from a journalist (Sean Bell from CommonSpace) rather than a proactive statement posted on the Government’s website to clarify its position.

Ready for this?

From an unnamed Government spokesperson:

The continued targeting of birds of prey is an extremely serious issue and we strongly condemn all those involved in it. We would urge anyone with information to contact the police. 

We are determined to protect birds of prey and have established an independent group to look at how we can ensure grouse moor management is sustainable and complies with the law. 

The review is due to report later this summer and we will consider fully any recommendations or proposed actions put forward by the group“.

The full article at CommonSpace can be read here.

It’s no wonder it took so long for the Government to say anything. It’s pretty clear from this that it has nothing new to say at all – just the same old rhetoric and platitudes and vague statements that don’t actually amount to anything. At all.

Here’s a stark reminder of the effectiveness the Scottish Government’s so-called ‘determination to protect birds of prey’. The spring-trapped hen harrier. He didn’t make it, despite the very best efforts of specialist vet Romain Pizzi and his team at the Scottish SPCA. [Photo by Ruth Tingay]

How many more victims will there be while we wait for the Scottish Government to actually do something?

Emails (polite ones, please) to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon at: firstminister@gov.scot 

16
Jul
19

Statement from Leadhills Estate on illegally-trapped hen harrier

Here we go folks, it looks like the Leadhills Estate has possibly identified the person(s) responsible for illegally-setting two spring traps at a hen harrier nest and it’s quite possible it’s the same one(s) responsible for the other 50+ raptor persecution crimes recorded in the area since 2003, including the armed masked man on a quad bike who was seen shooting a hen harrier in 2017 and the armed man in a 4×4 who was seen shooting and killing a short-eared owl in 2017. Although obviously not including the two crimes where estate gamekeepers were convicted (one in 2004 and one in 2009).

Phew. Thank god that’s all sorted. There’s no need for grouse moor management to come under any more scrutiny – we just need more police to patrol the area on the look out for ‘bird of prey activists’. Obvs.

The estate where a hen harrier is believed to have been caught in an illegally set trap has said it is not responsible for the bird’s death.

Leadhills Estate said the event is the latest in a series of suspicious activities on its land, much of which has been reported by the estate to police.

A spokesman for the estate said: “We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, all forms of persecution against birds of prey. The manner in which this hen harrier has died is sickening and we want the police to get to the truth of what has happened. We have provided the police with detailed evidence to support their inquiry including evidence of someone we consider to have acted suspiciously on the estate on the date in question.

“Our gamekeepers are trained to the highest level and know their responsibilities under the law and the standards we expect of them.

“The estate has conducted a full investigation into the circumstances of this incident and is satisfied that no one from the estate was involved in the illegal setting of these traps. Employees have been individually interviewed by lawyers. This comes in addition to the full cooperation the estate has offered in the police investigation.”

On the day the hen harrier was found, many estate traps, including fenn traps (the type of trap which the hen harrier was caught in) were removed, stolen or vandalised by an unknown third party or third parties. The damage was photographed and the incidents were reported to the police.

The spokesman continued: “Throughout April and May this year, we reported three separate incidents of theft, vandalism or interference to estate traps to police.

“On the day when the hen harrier was found, Saturday 11 May, legally set cages and traps were checked in the morning without incident. Some of the traps require to be checked on a 24 hour basis and when gamekeepers carried out further checks on Sunday 12 May, they discovered a number of Fenn traps vandalised, a number of traps had been stolen and two crow cages had been damaged with the decoy birds let out.

“This was reported to the police and photographic evidence and grid point references were recorded by the estate.”

Leadhills said it has experienced repeated cases of trap vandalism and other crimes carried out on the estate over many years which have been very difficult for estate staff to cope with.

The estate added that it was under intense scrutiny from third parties and recognised the ongoing controversy surrounding moorland management and bird of prey activists.

The spokesman added: “It is beyond belief that anyone associated with the estate would be both naïve and reckless enough to perpetrate a crime such as this.

“Over recent years, we have had at least three individuals working as raptor monitors on our land and our activity is
scrutinised to an acute level by those who are not sympathetic to grouse moor management. This is in addition to the examination we receive from independent assessors who advise our staff on best practice within the sector.

“There has been no commercial grouse shooting on our land over the past two years and the moors are not being managed to achieve high bags of grouse, as has been claimed.  There is no motive to act outside the law.

“We realise that there is a febrile atmosphere around moorland management, with campaigners in yesterday’s statement highlighting the forthcoming government’s grouse moor review led by Professor Werrity, but it is
important that we make our voice heard on this matter.  We believe that the film made by Chris Packham and others from the Revive coalition has been made with the primary aim of pressurising government to ban grouse shooting and this incident has been used to further that aim without it being subject to the due process of law or to independent scrutiny.  It is yet another case of trial by media.

“Someone killed the hen harrier and we deplore that act, but evidence as to who was responsible seems to have been removed immediately after the incident.  This leaves a very unsatisfactory situation for the estate, for the police, for the public and our politicians to deal with. Leadhills Estate, along with the rest of the grouse management
sector is looking to work constructively with all parties who want to see continuation of the important public benefits of sustainable moorland management.”

ENDS

16
Jul
19

Questionable commitment as Scottish Ministers ignore barbaric raptor persecution crime

Look at this.

It’s a personalised card, crafted in gold, pleading with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to take action following the recent news that yet another two satellite-tagged golden eagles had vanished in suspicious circumstances on a Scottish grouse moor, shortly after a satellite-tagged hen harrier had been found dead on another nearby grouse moor with an illegal leg clamped to its leg.

This exquisite artwork was sent to Ms Sturgeon by Jackie Morris, co-creater of The Lost Words.

It’s one of many that have been sent, inspired by a drawing by children’s author Gill Lewis, including drawings by seven and nine-year old boys, all sufficiently motivated by the loss of these eagles to want to ask for their protection (e.g. see here).

And there have been even more:

And it’s not just drawings. We know that many of you have been emailing the First Minister (firstminister@gov.scot) asking for action, following the example of Andy Wightman MSP, the golden eagle species champion who wrote to Ms Sturgeon the day the news broke that ‘his’ golden eagle, Adam, was one of those that had vanished.

The response from the First Minister, the Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon? Complete and utter silence.

That was two weeks ago.

Then yesterday came the news of the sadistic trapping of another hen harrier on another Scottish grouse moor, with a graphic video showing the extent of this bird’s injuries and suffering. It was sickening viewing, made all the worse by knowing that the traps had been deliberately set to target this bird at its nest. This was no accident. It was a brazen, brutal and ruthless attack and because there were no witnesses, the perpetrator hasn’t been identified and is likely to escape justice, just like so many others on so many other occasions.

The public outpouring of shock and disgust on social media, even from many within the shooting community, was instantaneous. These were the responses of decent human beings, with a visceral reaction to the distress of that traumatised hen harrier.

The response from the First Minister, Environment Cabinet Secretary and Rural Affairs Minister?

Total silence.

It is utterly baffling why these three intelligent, thoughtful, decent and normally dynamic people have refused to comment on such barbarity. It’s not because they’re on holiday (they’re all still tweeting about other stuff) and it can’t possibly be because they don’t know what’s been going on.

No, this is clearly a political decision – but why? Who’s advising them?

Is it something to do with the Werritty review? Who knows, and to be quite frank, who cares? We don’t need to wait for the findings of yet another review (already overdue) to know that change must come and it must be led by these senior politicians. But even if they are waiting for Werritty to report, that still shouldn’t prevent them from condemning these ongoing crimes and committing to addressing the issue, once and for all. This silence is what we’ve come to expect from Westminster politicians, not those in Holyrood.

What can they possibly gain by remaining silent? If anything, their refusal to comment must actually be pretty damaging – it looks like they just don’t care and to be honest, I’m tired of making excuses for them.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Dr Martin Luther King.

15
Jul
19

Hen harrier suffers savage brutality of an illegally-set trap on a Scottish grouse moor

Press release from Chris Packham CBE and Dr Ruth Tingay (RPUK):

An adult male hen harrier has suffered appalling injuries after being caught in a spring trap that had been illegally-set next to its nest on a Scottish grouse moor.

His lower leg was almost severed by the jaws of the trap and despite valiant attempts by a specialist veterinary surgeon to save him, his injuries were too severe and he was later euthanised.

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

The harrier had been found caught in the trap and in great distress by members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group who were undertaking routine raptor monitoring on the Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire on 11th May 2019. A second trap, also illegally-set, had been placed on the harrier’s nearby nest. The nest contained two eggs but there was no sign of the breeding female.

[The trapped hen harrier in distress. Photo by Scottish Raptor Study Group]

[The second illegally-set trap on the harrier’s nest, next to two eggs. Photo by Scottish Raptor Study Group]

The raptor workers rang the Scottish SPCA for help and the police were informed. The male hen harrier was collected immediately by the SSPCA and taken for veterinary attention. They also removed the traps and the eggs were transferred to an experienced falconer to see if they could be saved.

Specialist veterinary surgeon Romain Pizzi of the Scottish SPCA’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre conducted an intricate operation to reconstruct the harrier’s shattered leg but it had been too badly damaged by the trap so a decision was made to end his suffering and he was put to sleep.

Unfortunately the eggs that had been rescued from the nest didn’t survive either.

[SSPCA veterinary surgeon Romain Pizzi reconstructed the harrier’s smashed leg. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

[Specialist vet Romain Pizzi explains to Chris that the force of the trap on this hen harrier’s leg would be similar to the force of a tractor running over a man’s leg. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Seven weeks later on 4th July Police Scotland led a multi-agency search of Leadhills Estate but found no evidence to connect anyone from the estate with this latest wildlife crime.

This area of South Lanarkshire has been identified as a wildlife crime hotspot for many years. Since 2003 the RSPB has recorded at least 50 confirmed raptor persecution crimes on and close to a number of grouse moors in the region but only two have ever resulted in a successful prosecution; one gamekeeper was convicted in 2004 for shooting an owl and one was convicted in 2009 for setting out poisoned baits.

In 2015 a satellite-tagged hen harrier called Annie was found shot dead on a grouse moor in the area. In 2016 a satellite-tagged hen harrier called Chance disappeared in suspicious circumstances in the area, as did another one called ‘Skylar’ earlier this year.

In 2017 witnesses reported seeing an armed masked man shoot a hen harrier on a grouse moor in this area but the suspect escaped on a quad bike before the police arrived. The bird wasn’t found but a few weeks later witnesses observed an unidentified man shooting a short-eared owl on a grouse moor in the area. The man escaped across the moor in a four-wheel drive vehicle but the owl’s corpse was later retrieved from the heather and a post-mortem confirmed it had been shot. There were no prosecutions.

[A shot short-eared owl being retrieved from the grouse moor in 2017. Photo RSPB Scotland]

Following ongoing concerns about the scale of raptor persecution on some driven grouse moors in Scotland, in 2017 the Government commissioned a review of grouse moor management with a view to bringing in a regulatory licensing scheme. The review’s author, Professor Alan Werritty, is due to report within the next few weeks.

Prominent campaigners Chris Packham CBE and Dr Ruth Tingay who writes the Raptor Persecution UK blog have joined forces with other leading experts to produce a video about the savage brutality of this latest incident.

Chris Packham CBE said: “This despicable crime marks a most depressing day for raptor conservation in the UK and undoubtedly the darkest day for the whole shooting industry. It’s out of control, obviously beyond any form of self-regulation, and is tolerant of an utter contempt for the laws which are meant to protect our wildlife. This woeful death zone in South Lanarkshire needs cleaning up and clearing out now. This is 2019, not 1860 and this sickening spectacle has to consign driven grouse shooting to the dustbin”.

Dr Ruth Tingay said: “To be perfectly frank, what has happened here transcends the need to wait for the Werritty Review to report. This is brazen criminality, in broad daylight, conducted by someone secure in the knowledge that a prosecution is highly unlikely. The Scottish Government cannot continue to prevaricate on this issue while our wildlife suffers such barbaric acts. We know what’s going on, we know where it’s going on and the Government has a duty to act. Now.”

Anyone with information about the illegally-set traps found on Leadhills Estate is urged to contact Police Scotland on 101, or the RSPB’s confidential raptor crime hotline 0300 999 0101.

ENDS

With the help of a number of colleagues at Scottish SPCA, RSPB Scotland, OneKind, Revive Coalition, Operation Owl and Andy Wightman MSP and we’ve produced a video about this barbaric crime:

In recent weeks we’ve blogged about the suspicious disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier (Marci) in the Cairngorms National Park (here), the suspicious disappearance of another satellite-tagged hen harrier (Skylar) in South Lanarkshire (here), the illegal poisoning of four geese with a banned pesticide in the Cairngorms National Park (here), the illegal poisoning of at least two red kites in Dumfries & Galloway (here), the discovery of an illegally- spring-trapped hen harrier on a grouse moor in the Strathbraan raven cull area (here), and the suspicious disappearance of two satellite-tagged golden eagles (Adam and Charlie) on the same morning on another grouse moor in the Strathbraan raven cull area (here).

In response to these incidents, the Scottish Government has remained silent.

And now another hen harrier, a species whose killing is supposed to be a national wildlife crime priority, has suffered at the hands of the untouchables.

Will the Scottish Government finally now act?

Please contact the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and let her know (politely, please) that enough is enough.

Emails to: firstminister@gov.scot

Thank you

12
Jul
19

How to discuss an illegally shot hen harrier, without mentioning that it’s been illegally shot

Yesterday we blogged that a young satellite-tagged hen harrier called ‘River’ had been found dead on a grouse moor on the Swinton Estate in Yorkshire with two pieces of shot in her body (see here).

Surprisingly, the grouse moor owner’s lobby group the Moorland Association has made a statement (more often than not any raptor persecution crimes are simply ignored by this group). Perhaps, with the newly reformed Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), the Moorland Association is feeling under pressure to respond?

However, reading the Moorland Association’s statement is akin to watching a contortionist and wondering how they hell they got themselves in to such a twisted position.

The first we saw of the Moorland Association’s contortion was this, on Twitter, posted by the Moorland Association’s Director, Amanda Anderson, talking about the ‘recent incident in Yorkshire’:

‘The recent incident in Yorkshire’? Good grief. Do you mean ‘the recent illegal shooting of a hen harrier found dead on a Yorkshire grouse moor’, Amanda?

Then we read the actual statement:

Read this statement closely. You will not find the words ‘illegally shot hen harrier’ anywhere. Even the two pieces of lead shot in the bird’s body (as revealed by an x-ray) have been transformed in to “two metallic objects”!

How on earth do you expect an appeal for information about an illegally shot hen harrier to be seen as credible without actually saying it’s been illegally shot?!

There’s also a fascinating claim, attributed to North Yorkshire Police, that the estate has been informed by the police ‘that they are taking the matter no further due to lack of evidence and stressed that there was no suspicion of any wrongdoing by the Swinton Estate or its staff’.

Eh?

Is that an actual statement from North Yorkshire Police, or is it an interpretation by Swinton Estate and/or the Moorland Association? Of course there’s going to be suspicion – how can there possibly not be when an illegally shot hen harrier has been found on the estate?! That doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone at Swinton Estate was responsible for this crime, of course – there is simply no evidence to identify ANYONE as the culprit, especially when we don’t even know where or when the bird was shot – but to say ‘there was no suspicion of any wrongdoing’ seems to be stretching credulity a little bit too far.

It would be useful to see the x-ray of the dead hen harrier. We’ve been told it showed up two pieces of lead shot but no further detail than that. Had the lead shot smashed the harrier’s wing bones, rendering it unable to fly, then it might suggest the bird was indeed shot close to where its corpse was found. However, had the lead shot simply nicked, say, a leg bone, without breaking or fracturing it, then it would be supportive evidence to a theory that the harrier may have been shot elsewhere and was able to fly several miles before collapsing on this moor. North Yorkshire Police has not published the x-ray as far as we’re aware.

We’re also interested in the claim that the hen harrier’s body was “too decomposed to perform a post mortem“. Really? And who made that decision? Was it a pathologist? If you look at the photograph of the harrier’s body being collected from the moor by North Yorkshire Police, it looks to be in a condition that would permit a post mortem.

And if a post mortem wasn’t carried out, under what circumstances did North Yorkshire Police ‘later retrieve’ one of the two pieces of shot, as mentioned in yesterday’s blog?

There’s a lot about this crime and the subsequent investigation that just doesn’t add up. The situation isn’t helped by the PR contortions of the Moorland Association, whose appalling track record in tackling illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors renders them an organisation with zero integrity or credibility, in our opinion.

Let’s hope Police Superintendent Nick Lyall can use his position as Chair of the RPPDG to investigate the details of this case and report, as much as he is able, to what is fast becoming a disenchanted and angry public.




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