Archive for the 'Persecution Incidents in Irish Republic' Category

26
Jun
20

39 hen harriers ‘missing’ or confirmed killed since 2018

It’s getting to that time of year when the grouse shooting industry pumps out its patently misleading propaganda relating to hen harrier conservation in the UK. The aim is to hoodwink the public in to believing that the industry loves hen harriers and is doing all it can to protect and nurture the tiny remnant breeding population (but conveniently forgetting to mention that the breeding population is only in such dire straits because the grouse shooting industry has been ruthless in its maniacal intolerance of this supposedly protected species).

And the industry’s pursuit of the hen harrier is not simply ‘historical’ or indicative of past behaviour, as some would have us believe. It is on-going, it is current, and it is relentless.

To illustrate this fact, we intend to keep a running tally of all the hen harriers that we know (because most of these victims had been fitted with a satellite tag) to have either ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances or have been confirmed as being illegally killed since 2018.

Why only since 2018 when we know that hen harriers have been a persecution target for years and years and years? Well, 2018 is the year that the grouse shooting industry ‘leaders’ would have us believe that the criminal persecution of hen harriers had stopped and that these birds were being welcomed back on to the UK’s grouse moors (see here).

This assertion was made shortly before the publication of a devastating new scientific paper that demonstrated that 72% of satellite-tagged Hen Harriers were confirmed or considered likely to have been illegally killed, and this was ten times more likely to occur over areas of land managed for grouse shooting relative to other land uses (see here).

We only started compiling this list of dead / missing hen harriers two weeks ago when we learned that all five of last year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks were ‘missing’, presumed dead (see here). Having just learned yesterday that two more satellite-tagged hen harriers have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors in the Cairngorms National Park during the Coronvirus lockdown (see here), it’s time to update the death list, which now stands at 39. Nobody has been prosecuted for any of these cases. We have every expectation that this list will be updated again in the near future.

For now, here are the 39:

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published wholly inaccurate information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false” (here).

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here)

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland (here)

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating death as suspicious (here)

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland (here).

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here)

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lanacashire (here)

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here)

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here). Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap (here).

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB (here). Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot (here).

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site (here)

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 May 2019: An untagged male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive (here)

7 June 2019: An untagged hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot (here)

5 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 1 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor nr Dalnaspidal on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

14 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183704) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

23 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #55149) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

24 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 2 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor at Invercauld in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here)

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland (here)

18 October 2019: Member of the public reports the witnessed shooting of an untagged male hen harrier on White Syke Hill in North Yorkshire (here)

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland (here)

January 2020: Members of the public report the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

1 April 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183703) ‘disappeared’ in unnamed location, tag intermittent (here)

5 April 2020: Hen harrier Hoolie ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

8 April 2020: Hen harrier Marlin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

21 May 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183701) ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Cumbria shortly after returning from wintering in France (here)

To be continued……..

Anybody still wondering why the grouse shooting industry wants us to stop fitting satellite tags?

11
Jun
20

37 hen harriers ‘missing’ or confirmed killed since 2018

It’s getting to that time of year when the grouse shooting industry pumps out its patently misleading propaganda relating to hen harrier conservation in the UK. The aim is to hoodwink the public in to believing that the industry loves hen harriers and is doing all it can to protect and nurture the tiny remnant breeding population (but conveniently forgetting to mention that the breeding population is only in such dire straits because the grouse shooting industry has been ruthless in its maniacal intolerance of this supposedly protected species).

And the industry’s pursuit of the hen harrier is not ‘historical’ or indicative of past behaviour, as some would have us believe. It is on-going, it is current, and it is relentless.

To illustrate this fact, we intend to keep a running tally of all the hen harriers that we know (because most of these victims had been fitted with a satellite tag) to have either ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances or have been confirmed as being illegally killed since 2018.

Why only since 2018 when we know that hen harriers have been a persecution target for years and years and years? Well, 2018 is the year that the grouse shooting industry ‘leaders’ would have us believe that the criminal persecution of hen harriers had stopped and that these birds were being welcomed back on to the UK’s grouse moors (see here).

Having just learned that all five of last year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks are now ‘missing’ and presumed dead (one, #55147, probably dead from natural causes during a sea crossing so is not classed as ‘suspicious’ but the other four ‘missing’ in highly suspicious circumstances in the UK’s uplands – see here), it’s time to update the death list, which currently stands at 37. We have every expectation that this list will be updated again in the near future.

For now, here are the 37:

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published wholly inaccurate information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false” (here).

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here)

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland (here)

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating death as suspicious (here)

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland (here).

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here)

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lanacashire (here)

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here)

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here). Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap (here).

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB (here). Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot (here).

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site (here)

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 May 2019: An untagged male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive (here)

7 June 2019: An untagged hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot (here)

5 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 1 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor nr Dalnaspidal on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

14 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183704) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

23 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #55149) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

24 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 2 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor at Invercauld in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here)

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland (here)

18 October 2019: Member of the public reports the witnessed shooting of an untagged male hen harrier on White Syke Hill in North Yorkshire (here)

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland (here)

January 2020: Members of the public report the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

1 April 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183703) ‘disappeared’ in unnamed location, tag intermittent (here)

21 May 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183701) ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Cumbria shortly after returning from wintering in France (here)

To be continued……..

09
Jun
20

Poisoned hen harrier ‘Mary’ – open letter calls for action

A young hen harrier named Mary that hatched on the Isle of Man in 2019 and had been satellite-tagged by the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project was found poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Co Meath in Ireland in November 2019. Tests revealed she had consumed the banned poison Carbofuran which was found on a pigeon bait and on other meat baits next to her corpse.

We blogged about the illegal killing of this hen harrier earlier this year (see here) and it was quite evident from the press statements from both BirdWatch Ireland and the RSPB that there were concerns that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Gardai (Irish Police) could be doing more in terms of investigation, enforcement and liaison.

[Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot, photo by BirdWatch Ireland]

Seven months on from her death, those early concerns appear to have been justified.

Have a look at this open letter, written by Manx BirdLife (Isle of Man) and addressed to the National Parks & Wildlife Service (Irish Republic) calling for transparency about any criminal investigation which may, or may not, have taken place in to the illegal killing of this hen harrier.

This is a really interesting, and welcome, move by Manx BirdLife. It’s an indication of the growing frustration around the ongoing illegal killing of hen harriers (and other raptors) and demonstrates an unwillingness just to sit back and watch it happen time and time again without anyone being held to account.

For all we know the NPWS may have conducted a thorough investigation and been thwarted by the usual problems of finding sufficient evidence for a prosecution, but that information should certainly be made public because otherwise it looks like they just don’t care and sends a message to other would-be criminals that this sort of offence will go unpunished.

It’ll be interesting to see what sort of response, if any, Manx BirdLife receives from the NPWS.

07
Jun
20

‘Bait trays’ sent for analysis after latest suspected buzzard poisoning incident

Article from The Southern Star (Co Cork) (2 June 2020)

Bait trays are found after buzzard killed in Kealkil

By Kieran O’Mahony

TRAYS containing contaminated meat laid out as bait may be responsible for the killing of a buzzard in the Kealkil area earlier this month.

[One of the meat trays submitted for toxicology analysis]

The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) were recently notified of the discovery of the dead buzzard by a family who were out walking their dog in the area.

This is the second incident in West Cork this year where buzzards, protected species, have been deliberately killed. It follows the discovery of 23 buzzards on farmland between Bandon and Timoleague in January. In this case, they were poisoned using the banned insecticide, carbofuran. It is not clear if these two incidents are connected.

NPWS staff are involved in an ongoing investigation into whether this was a persecution incident as they have found several trays, which contained meat which would appear to have been laid out as bait,” said a NPWS spokesperson.

The dead buzzard, the meat and the trays, have been sent to the State laboratory for further analysis to determine if there was poison involved.

The trays were placed along a track, which local people use for walking and other recreational activities.

Any poison bait or any meat-based poison, laid out in this way is illegal and indiscriminate. A dog either ingesting the poison or eating another animal that is sick or dead as a result of the bait, is likely to get seriously ill or die.”

The spokesperson also said that children are at risk if they pick up or handle contaminated material.

NPWS is asking any member of the public who has information about the incident or who sees anything suspicious – meat-based poison bait, which might be on a carcass or meat laid out in the open – to contact them or the gardaí immediately.

ENDS

It’s hard to imagine why trays of meat might be laid out other than to poison something, but perhaps there is a legitimate reason? However, if these do turn out to be trays of poisoned meat, the brazenness of the person who placed them would be astonishing.

Other recent poisoning incidents in this region include the killing of 23 buzzards with the banned pesticide Carbofuran (here) and the suspected poisoning of a search and rescue dog (here).

05
Jun
20

Search & Rescue dog dies after eating suspected poisoned bait

The Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) has announced the death of one of its trainee dogs after consuming what is believed to have been a poisoned bait.

SARDA posted the following statement on social media yesterday:

Tragic news in the last few days, as Bonnie, a SARDA Ireland Trainee Trailing Dog died after she ate poison that had been deliberately put out on the hill with the intention of targeting wildlife. She and her handler Jim O’Brien were training in the foothills of the Knockmealdowns when the incident occurred.

Bonnie was a beautiful and talented dog who no doubt would have become one of our first SARDA Ireland Trailing Dogs. A tragic loss for Jim, who has lost his beloved pet, and a huge loss to the SARDA Ireland Trailing Dog Team.

There have also been reports in the media, such as this from Tipp FM:

Investigations are underway following the poisoning of a Search and Rescue Dog in Tipperary.

Bonnie – a Labrador/Collie cross – was being trained by a member of the Search and Rescue Dogs Association of Ireland.

The incident happened last Sunday week in woods on the foothills of the Knockmealdown Mountains near Clogheen. Sadly Bonnie passed away a few days later.

There are just 6 qualified dogs in the country with 4 of them part of the South Eastern Mountain Rescue Association.

Gerry Tobin is a dog handler with SARDA – he says there have been other incidents of poisoning reported in the area.

There are certain individuals who for whatever reason are putting out poisoned baits and targeting wildlife – buzzards, peregrines, badgers you know any animals like this are potentially going to be at risk of poisoning.

And you’re also in a situation where you could have a family dog being exercised on a Sunday afternoon along the Blackwater Way and the following day that family dog could be dead.”

ENDS

The type of poison hasn’t been disclosed in this case but only a few weeks ago we learned that the banned pesticide Carbofuran had been used for the mass poisoning of 23 buzzards in neighbouring County Cork (see here).

Placing poisoned baits to target birds of prey is not only illegal, but it’s also barbaric and indiscriminate. Only last month we heard of the suspected poisoning of two dogs in the notorious raptor-killing hell hole of Nidderdale, a so-called protected area designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in North Yorkshire. One of those dogs subsequently died (see here).

If you see what you believe is a poisoned bait, DON’T TOUCH IT but call the police immediately.

10
May
20

Local politician seeks ‘full investigation’ in to mass poisoning of buzzards

Further to yesterday’s blog about the reported illegal poisoning of 23 buzzards in County Cork and the apparent subsequent silence of the investigating authorities (see here), today there’s some encouraging news.

Local politician Christopher O’Sullivan TD (Teachta Dala, the equivalent of an MP) in whose constituency the poisoned buzzards were found, has just tweeted the following:

According to our sources, this is a very significant move. As discussed in yesterday’s blog, there have long been concerns about the lack of enforcement measures against raptor persecution in some parts of Ireland and particularly in the south where this latest crime was recorded.

Yesterday’s statement from BirdWatch Ireland highlighted these concerns and they’ve been re-emphasised in a statement from the Golden Eagle Trust (GET), the wildlife charity behind the reintroduction of golden eagles, white-tailed eagles and other important conservation projects across the Irish Republic. Here’s what GET had to say about this on Friday:

An attack on nature protection in Cork

Carbofuran is a banned root crop pesticide that continues to be used to deliberately kill birds of prey across Ireland. Some months ago, a landowner discovered dead Buzzards on his property, near Timoleague, County Cork and contacted the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). 23 dead Common Buzzards were found during subsequent searches of the adjacent land. Toxicology tests, carried out by the State Laboratory, showed that the Buzzards had consumed Carbofuran, we believe. The landowner was completely unaware that a third party was leaving out poison nearby. This is the biggest illegal act against birds of prey in Ireland, over the last two decades.

The continued wilful persecution of birds of prey is decreasing the population of Peregrines, Hen Harriers, Buzzards and the reintroduced native populations of Eagles and Kites, in some parts of Ireland. It can be very difficult to find the evidence that could link an individual with an act of poisoning and thereby present sufficient evidence before a judge in order to secure a successful prosecution.

Therefore, the Golden Eagle Trust is calling on Government Departments to draft and enact a defined piece of legislation which makes it illegal for anybody to be in possession of Carbofuran and several other lethal substances, whose former agricultural uses have been banned and phased out. We are also calling on the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to revisit their discussion on whether it would be helpful to establish a small (one or two person) Wildlife Crime Unit within NPWS, in order to provide specialized advice and expertise in responding to reported wildlife crime incidents and presenting a strong legal case to the State Solicitors and to be put before the Courts; whenever the evidence allows a case to be initiated.

It is difficult to assess the effectiveness and enforcement of National and European wildlife legislation in Ireland and the degree of deterrent it might offer, arising from successful Irish wildlife court cases; as court cases or successful wildlife crime prosecution figures are not readily available. However, a crude review of available internet media sources, might suggest that there has not been any successful wildlife crime court case, over the last 4 or 5 years, in Counties Cork or Kerry, for example. The general public have a very important role in reporting dead birds of prey to NPWS and they in turn, need appropriate laws, staff resources and appropriate management facilitation in implementing the law, where the evidence allows it, in some of these ongoing poisoning incidents.

Whilst there may be several legitimate administrative reasons for the lack of clarity surrounding Ireland’s biggest raptor persecution case, arising from the current Coronavirus crisis; there is also a competing responsibility to keep communities informed of nearby risks related to illegal poisoning activity. The wider context reveals an unfortunate pattern of Peregrines being killed at the same nests annually and Common Buzzards and Red Kites being poisoned, in localized areas, on a regular basis. It can be extremely difficult to identify the perpetrators of these crimes against nature and therefore the legislation needs to keep abreast of the collated RAPTOR Protocol dataset and counter, the primary threats that the accruing results suggest.

[The corpses of several buzzards found poisoned by Carbofuran in Co Cork in 2018. See here for details. Photo by NPWS]

In July 2010, the Grant Thornton, ‘Organisational Review of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), suggested in Section 4.5.1 (Page 55) that:

Enforcement and prosecution activity is represented as being low with only some 30 cases per annum being prosecuted. Progress in this area seems to vary depending on Division.”

The Golden Eagle Trust wonder if the level of nature protection enforcement activity might have fallen even further since 2010? We are concerned that a lack of Ministerial, Departmental or Party-Political support, for some aspects of the Law, may have weakened NPWS managerial resolve, in some areas, over the last decade. In a small number of places, recreational family groups, dog walkers and landowners may need to be especially vigilant as regards the possibility that poisoned meat baits have been left out in the open. This incident revives the independent expert opinion and concern (as set out in the Grant Thornton Organisational Review) whether some NPWS managers need more support and resources in progressing illegal wildlife activity cases? The unpalatable alternative, is that the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht transparently seek to repeal defined aspects of Irish or European Wildlife Legislation, which they may no longer endorse.

Regardless of the context; we are shocked by the number of dead Buzzards found in Cork and the 23 associated positive toxicology results – it is a wake-up call to us all.

ENDS

Full credit to Christopher O’Sullivan TD – let’s hope his calls for an investigation lead to significant change, with improvements in investigation and enforcement responses. Judging by the reaction to the news that 23 buzzards were poisoned, he’ll have a great deal of public support.

09
May
20

23 buzzards illegally poisoned with Carbofuran in single incident

The Irish Raptor Study Group and BirdWatch Ireland have reported the illegal poisoning of 23 buzzards in a single incident in Co Cork.

The following statement has been published by BirdWatch Ireland:

Mass poisoning of buzzards in County Cork

We have recently learned of the illegal poisoning of 23 Buzzards in County Cork. This incident is the single largest poisoning of birds of prey in this country in decades and the largest since the legislation was amended to ban the use of poison meat baits in 2010. We understand that the 23 Buzzards were recovered at the scene last December and were sent for testing under the Raptor Protocol, which subsequently confirmed that all had died due to ingesting the highly toxic and banned substance, Carbofuran.

[Photo via Irish Raptor Study Group]

The targeted use of bait laced with poison to kill protected birds of prey remains widespread and one of the most common substances used is Carbofuran, despite being banned. This incident follows the death of Mary, the satellite-tagged Hen Harrier, late last year, also illegally poisoned, also by Carbofuran (for more details see here and here).

These incidents, along with the countless other similar horrific poisonings of birds of prey, demonstrate that current efforts are simply not sufficient in stopping the persecution of our birds of prey. History dictates that incidents such as this mass poisoning will continue to occur unless appropriate action is taken. While we do not know who is responsible for this incident, we do know that the motives of those that persecute birds of prey are inherently flawed and display an ignorance and lack of understanding of our environment. Buzzards and other birds of prey are indicators of a healthy countryside and perform a vital role in the ecosystem, we cannot and should not tolerate the damaging actions of a minority to eradicate them from our countryside.

We understand that NPWS held an investigation, but that similar to the poisoning of Mary, those responsible were not held accountable. Why is more action not being taken to tackle Carbofuran and other illegal poisons, which are horrendously toxic and pose a serious threat to humans as well as to wildlife? Does an unwitting person trying to assist a stricken bird have to die before the State finally takes action?

We will be liaising with NPWS, we offer our support to them and urge a unified approach to tackling wildlife crimes. Unless proper resources are allocated, to include an established wildlife crime unit and greater powers and resources to investigate and enforce the legislation, incidents such as this one will continue without consequence. We will bring you more on this incident once we have further details.

ENDS

UPDATE 10 May 2020: Local politician seeks ‘full investigation’ in to mass poisoning of buzzards (here)

18
Feb
20

2018 worst year in more than a decade for illegal raptor persecution in England

Yesterday the RSPB published more data on its Raptor Persecution Map Hub, which now includes 12 years worth of searchable incidents. You can read about it here on the RSPB Investigations Team’s blog.

Coinciding with this release was a piece on the BBC’s Six O’Clock News followed up with a feature on BBC North West’s Inside Out programme.

The Inside Out programme is available to watch on iPlayer here for the next 29 days.

The feature runs for about ten minutes and includes interviews with the RSPB’s Investigations Team, North Yorkshire Police’s award-winning Wildlife Crime Officer Sgt Stu Grainger, and the Moorland Association’s top contortionist Amanda Anderson.

To be honest there’s nothing new here at all – it’s a well-rehearsed pantomime with claims made by the RSPB (based on evidential data) and counter-claims from the grouse shooting industry (pretending everything’s fine) but nevertheless, still well worth the airplay on national news that undoubtedly will have reached some people who’d previously been unaware of the level of criminality on many of the grouse moors of northern England.

The journalist, Gareth Barlow, did a reasonable job although just lacked the killer questions that would have exposed the Moorland Association’s nonsense with ease. For example, he picked up that 2018 was the worst year for recorded raptor persecution crimes in over a decade but he let Amanda Anderson get away with some snakeish slithering around the facts, as follows:

Gareth Barlow:A study from last year of data trackers showed that hen harriers are ten times more likely to die or disappear over land associated with grouse moors. How do you react to that data?”

Amanda Anderson:The study of tagged birds up to 2017 raises considerable issues. But actually since then 2018 saw 34 fledged hen harrier chicks in England and last year a record-breaking 47 chicks fledged, mostly from grouse moors“.

Let’s just analyse Amanda’s response. A casual and uninformed listener might think that, based on what she said, the grouse shooting industry has cleaned up its act since 2017, with ‘record-breaking’ [ahem] numbers of chicks fledging and everything’s fine now, nothing to see here, move along, gamekeepers love hen harriers too and the killing has stopped. But what happens to those ‘record-breaking’ number of fledged hen harriers once they leave the nest?

What Amanda ‘forgot’ to mention was the long list of satellite-tagged hen harriers that have either vanished in suspicious circumstances or been found illegally shot or trapped or poisoned, mostly on or close to land managed for game bird shooting, since 2018 (and since DEFRA’s so-called Hen Harrier Action Plan was enacted):

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published false information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false” (here).

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here)

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland (here)

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating death as suspicious (here)

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland (here).

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here)

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lanacashire (here)

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here)

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here). Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap (here).

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB (here). Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot (here).

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site (here)

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 May 2019: A male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive (here)

7 June 2019: A hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot (here)

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here)

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland (here)

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland (here)

There are two more satellite-tagged hen harriers (Tony & Rain) that are reported either confirmed or suspected to have been illegally killed in the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project Report but no further details are available.

And then there were last year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks that have been reported ‘missing’ but as they’re carrying a new type of tag known to be unreliable it’s not known if they’ve been bumped off or if they’re still ok. For the purposes of this mini-analysis we will discount these birds.

So that makes a total of at least 29 hen harriers that are known to have either ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances or have been found illegally killed in the last two years, during the period that Amanda Anderson was suggesting the killing had stopped.

That’s a lot of incidents for Amanda to ‘forget’ to mention, isn’t it?

And we’re supposed to trust the Moorland Association when it claims to have ‘zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution!

31
Jan
20

Satellite-tagged hen harrier found poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland

A young hen harrier named Mary that hatched on the Isle of Man in 2019 and had been satellite-tagged by the RSPB’s LIFE Project was found poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Co Meath in Ireland in November 2019. Tests revealed she had consumed the banned poison Carbofuran which was found on a pigeon bait and on other meat baits next to her corpse.

[Hen harrier Mary found dead on a pheasant shoot. Photo by BirdWatch Ireland]

There are a few press releases doing the rounds about this latest killing, one from BirdWatch Ireland (here) and one from the RSPB (here).

There’s also a video documenting the discovery of Mary’s corpse:

Reading between the lines of both media releases there appears to be concern that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Gardai (Irish Police) could be doing more in terms of investigation, enforcement and liaison. Without knowing the details of this case it’s difficult to comment further but the pointed commentary in both press releases seems quite deliberate.

In recent years the NPWS has instigated a new monitoring and recording scheme for raptor persecution in Ireland, to which BirdWatch Ireland’s John Lusby alludes in his press quote. It’s worth having a look at the most recent monitoring report (2018) and particularly the long table in Appendix 1 (pages 21-28) documenting the number of recorded persecution incidents between 2007 – 2018; there is clearly a massive persecution issue in the Irish Republic.

Raptor Persecution Ireland 2018 report

This ongoing and relentless persecution affects not only local and regional raptors but, as we have seen with hen harrier Mary, raptors from across our isles that travel without political boundaries. Likewise, a white-tailed eagle from Ireland has recently spent several months in temporary residence in Scotland, the north of England and the Isle of Man, as revealed by his satellite tag data. Amazingly he survived but he could so easily have been unlawfully killed over this side of the water given the extent of the persecution here.

There’s been increasing public pressure on the authorities here to crack down on the illegal killing; let’s hope the same pressure is being felt in Ireland and that the NPWS and Gardai conduct a thorough investigation in to the poisoning of this young hen harrier.

UPDATE 9 JUNE 2020: Poisoned hen harrier ‘Mary’ – open letter calls for action (here)

10
Aug
18

Police investigate suspicious death of breeding peregrine pair

Irish police, in conjunction with the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) are appealing for information following the discovery of two dead adult peregrines found on their nest ledge in Co Louth in the Irish Republic.

Staff from the NPWS recovered the two dead peregrines, along with three eggs, from a remote nest site in the Cooley Mountains.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said the adult falcons were killed while trying to incubate their eggs and that ‘forensic and other evidence was being gathered in the expectation that a successful prosecution will take place’.

In the expectation that a successful prosecution will take place‘? That’s a strange and optimistic claim but perhaps they already know more than they’re letting on – the cause of death, if it’s been established, has not been revealed in any media reports about this case.

Anyone with information can contact gardaí (police) in Dundalk on 042-9388400 or the local conservation ranger on 076-1002637.

The appeal for information appeared in the Irish Times on Wednesday 8 August 2018 (see here)




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