Archive for the 'Persecution Incidents in Wales' Category

15
Dec
17

Birds of prey suffer massacre on moors

This made us laugh. The Dark Side will be seething about this damaging headline!

Here’s an article from today’s edition of The Times (of all places!) – their interpretation of DEFRA’s crap raptor persecution maps:

As usual, the article sits behind a paywall so here’s the extracted text:

The North York Moors is the most dangerous place for birds of prey, according to maps of England and Wales that have exposed at least six hotspots of wildlife crime.

Thérèse Coffey, the wildlife minister, promised a police response yesterday after the maps charted 262 incidents in which raptors, including buzzards, kites and owls, had been trapped, shot, poisoned or had their nests destroyed between 2011 and 2015.

North Yorkshire had the highest number of incidents at 39, overwhelmingly in and around the North York Moors National Park.

There were 17 incidents in Norfolk and 11 each in Cumbria and Derbyshire, followed by ten cases in Lincolnshire and eight each in Suffolk and Northumberland.

Conservationists blame gamekeepers for killing the birds of prey to protect pheasants and grouse which are shot for sport. Britain’s biggest shooting organisation has admitted that its members have been involved in killing birds of prey illegally.

Ms Coffey said: “These maps highlight hotspots across the country for crimes against these precious birds, enabling the police to crack down with increased enforcement in areas where it’s needed most.

Birds of prey are a vital part of our animal landscape, icons of our cultural heritage and key to boosting local economies by attracting visitors to England and Wales.”

The maps were produced by more than a dozen groups, including gamekeepers, landowners and the gun lobby as well as the Crown Prosecution Service and National Wildlife Crime Unit.

Christopher Graffius, of the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, said that the sport risked a ban unless it did more to root out the criminals involved in persecuting raptors.

This map should serve as a wake-up call for those who are doing a disservice to the entire shooting community by committing crimes against birds of prey,” he said.

The maps showed 146 incidents in which birds were shot and 66 where they were poisoned. In 108 cases the victims were buzzards, which prey on pheasants. Forty cases involved owls, 39 red kites and 34 peregrine falcons. One incident involved a hen harrier, one of Britain’s most endangered birds. The Department for the Environment said that raptor persecution was a “wildlife crime priority”.

ENDS

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01
Nov
17

RSPB publishes Birdcrime 2016 report

Press release from RSPB:

REPORT REVEALS CONTINUED PERSECUTION OF BIRDS OF PREY IN UK

  • RSPB’s Birdcrime report reveals a minimum of 81 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution in the UK during 2016, but many illegal killings are going undetected or unreported.
  • There were no prosecutions for these persecution offences, the first time this has happened in 30 years.
  • Illegal killing is not only robbing people of the chance to see birds of prey in the UK but has serious consequences for their populations.
  • The RSPB is calling for police and other enforcing authorities to make full use of all existing powers to protect birds of prey as well as the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting to ensure shoots are operating legally and sustainably.

Without urgent action some of UK’s birds of prey face a bleak future after the latest Birdcrime report revealed a minimum of 81 confirmed incidents of illegal raptor persecution in 2016, without a single person prosecuted.

Birdcrime 2016 – the only report summarising offences against birds of prey in the UK – revealed 40 shooting, 22 poisoning, 15 trapping and four other incidents of illegal persecution against raptors. Among the victims were hen harriers, peregrine falcons, red kites and buzzards. However, evidence suggests these figures are just the tip of the iceberg with many illegal killings going undetected or unreported.

[Photo: this Marsh harrier was found shot next to a partridge release pen on a shooting estate in Yorkshire. Image via Jean Thorpe]

The report also revealed close to two-thirds (53) of the confirmed incidents took place in England, with particular concern for raptors in North Yorkshire. Over the last five years the county recorded the highest number of confirmed bird of prey persecution incidents in the UK, with 54 incidents since 2012 and 19 last year alone.

The problem wasn’t confined to England, with the report highlighting confirmed cases in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where there is growing concern over the repeated suspicious disappearance of satellite tagged birds of prey. This year, a study by Scottish Government examined the fate of 131 golden eagles fitted with satellite tags between 2004-16 concluding that ‘as many as 41 (one third) disappeared, presumably died, under suspicious circumstances connected with records of illegal persecution.’

Increasingly, people in the UK are being robbed of the chance to see these spectacular birds because of these illegal incidents, yet in 2016, there wasn’t a single prosecution arising from a confirmed incident, the first time this has happened in 30 years.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “Birds of prey bring our skies to life. There is nothing like seeing a diving peregrine or a skydancing hen harrier. The sights of these spectacular birds are something we should all be able to enjoy, unfortunately illegal activity is stopping this and preventing the birds from flourishing. There are laws in place to protect these birds but they are clearly not being put into action. We need governments across the UK to do more to tackle illegal killing to protect our raptors for future generations to enjoy.”

Previous research has shown that illegal killing of birds of prey is associated with land managed for intensive driven grouse shooting, leaving vast areas of our uplands without raptors. A Natural England study revealed ‘compelling evidence’ that persecution of hen harriers – associated with driven grouse moors – was the main factor limiting their recovery in England.

The RSPB believes the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting would help tackle the ongoing illegal persecution that occurs on these grouse moors. This would also help tackle the wider problems of intensive management of ‘big bag’ driven grouse shooting, like the draining of and burning on fragile peat bogs. A fair set of rules in the form of a licensing system could help ensure shoots are operating legally and sustainably and introduce the option of restricting or removing a licence in response to the most serious offences, for example where staff on an estate have been convicted of illegally killing birds of prey.

The RSPB welcomes a recent announcement by Scottish Government that will see an independent panel established to review options for regulation of grouse shooting and to look at the economic and environmental costs and benefits of the industry.

Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: “This latest Birdcrime report continues to highlight that in the UK we have a major issue with birds of prey being deliberately and illegally killed, despite having full legal protection. This type of crime has serious consequences for the populations of species, such as the hen harrier, and we must see a change in attitude and more effective law enforcement to protect these birds for years to come.”

ENDS

Read the online Birdcrime 2016 report here

Birdcrime 2016 data appendices here

Well done to the RSPB Investigations Team for once again compiling and publishing these annual data, which help to dispel the oft-cited myth from the game-shooting industry that raptor persecution ‘is a thing of the past’. Have a look at this useful graph and draw your own conclusions – the data don’t lie, unlike the game-shooting industry:

Of course, it comes as no surprise that those within the bird shooting industry would want to mislead the public – as this pie chart reveals, gamekeepers are responsible for the vast majority of UK raptor persecution crimes:

The county of North Yorkshire once again comes top of the raptor-killing leader board, way ahead of every other county. Many of these crimes have taken place on driven grouse moors:

Tune in around this time next year, to read more of the same. Nothing has changed and nor will it change until the filthy and unregulated driven grouse shooting industry has been closed down. You can help hasten its demise by signing this e-petition calling for a ban: please join over 10,000 others and sign here.

MEDIA COVERAGE

BBC Breakfast news: Great interview with Guy Shorrock (RSPB Investigations). Available on iPlayer but only for 24 hrs (starts at 1:50) here

BBC news: here

New Scientist: here

Guest blog by Bob Elliot, Head of RSPB Investigations: here

Daily Telegraph: here (including a quote from Amanda Anderson, Moorland Association)

The Times: here (behind paywall)

The York Press: here

Statement from Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority: here

Yorkshire Post: here

UPDATE 1.30hrs: Reaction to RSPB’s 2016 Birdcrime report, compare & contrast (here)

12
Apr
17

Buzzard, raven & crow shot in Brecon Beacons National Park

The RSPCA is appealing for information after the shooting of three birds in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

A member of the public discovered a dead raven and a dead buzzard near Pen-y-Cae on 5 April 2017. They were taken to the RSPCA’s Merthyr Tydfil clinic where x-rays revealed they had been shot with a pellet gun (x-ray image by RSPCA).

An injured crow was rescued but later euthanised due to its injuries.

Local residents have reported seeing an unusual white van parked in the area around 5 April.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the RSPCA Appeals Line, in confidence, Tel 0300-123-8018.

BBC news article here

ITV news article here

06
Jan
17

Notorious egg thief on the run

jeffrey-lendrumJeffrey Lendrum, a notorious international falcon egg thief, has gone on the run in Brazil and there are fears he may well turn up back in the UK this year to go after peregrine eggs.

In January 2016 Lendrum, 55, was sentenced to four and a half years in jail after being convicted of being in possession of rare falcon eggs at Sao Paulo airport, enroute from Chile to Dubai (see here). However, he had recently appealed his sentence and the Brazilian authorities released him on bail pending his appeal.

He has since disappeared.

Lendrum has a string of previous convictions for falcon egg smuggling, dating back as far as 1984 in Zimbabwe. In 2002 he was arrested in Canada for stealing peregrine and gyrfalcon eggs. In 2010 he was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment in the UK (reduced to 18 months on appeal) after being caught with 14 peregrine eggs at Birmingham Airport. He’d stolen them from nests in south Wales and was enroute to Dubai (see here).

If you’re involved with monitoring peregrine sites in the UK, keep an eye out for this face.

05
Jan
17

Update on the 3 shot buzzards in Somerset

Following on from today’s earlier blog about the three shot buzzards in Somerset (here), we’ve now been informed that one was shot in Somerset (Chedzoy) on New Year’s Day and died of its injuries and the other two were shot in separate incidents in Wales (locations unknown) and were transported to the RSPCA wildlife hospital in Somerset where they are undergoing treatment.

Thanks to the two blog readers who contacted us with updated info.

04
Jul
16

No subsidy withdrawal for mass poisoning of raptors on Glanusk Estate

Further to the news about the mass poisoning of raptors uncovered on the Glanusk Estate in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales (see here), we wanted to find out whether the Estate had incurred a financial penalty for what appears to be a clear breach of cross compliance rules.

In order to qualify for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidy payments, claimants are required to keep their land in ‘Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition’ and comply with a set of Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs). This is known as cross compliance. [NB: the rules have now changed slightly but as this mass poisoning took place in 2012/2013, the old rules apply].

In our opinion, the illegal poisoning of raptors with Bendiocarb is a breach of SMR1 (relating to the protection of wild birds) and SMR9 (relating to restrictions on the use of plant protection products).

DSCN0334.JPG-550x0

In April, an FoI was submitted to Rural Payments Wales (RPW), the Government agency responsible for implementing CAP subsidy payments and for imposing penalties if cross compliance regulations have been breached. Here are the questions that were asked, along with the answers received from RPW:

Question 1. Which of these incidents were on land in receipt of subsidies under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) during the years 2012 and 2013?

Answer: I can confirm that 10 of these incidents were on land in receipt of SPS in 2012 and 2013.

[RPUK comment: Although there were 24 incidents in total, it seems that RPW has excluded 14 of them, presumably because the illegally-poisoned birds and/or illegally-placed poisoned baits were on land that is not subject to SPS, for example, in woodland].

Question 2. What were the amounts of payments made under SPS in 2012 and 2013 and to how many beneficiaries?

Answer: A total of £98,802.01 was paid to 2 beneficiaries under SPS 2012. A total of £97,145.70 was paid to 2 beneficiaries under SPS 2013.

[RPUK comment: We’ve scrutinised the CAP payments website to find out who these beneficiaries were and we’ve worked out that they are two tenant farmers on the Glanusk Estate, presumably on whose landholdings the poisoned birds/baits were discovered].

Question 3. Can Rural Payments Wales confirm whether these offences would have breached SMR1 and SMR9 of the SPS?

Answer: These offences would be a breach of SMR1 and SMR9 if they were found to be attributable to a benficiary of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds.

Question 4. What investigation or enforcement action has Rural Payments Wales undertaken in relation to these offences?

Answer: RPW considered the offences in question and concluded there was insufficient evidence to apply a cross compliance breach to a beneficiary.

[RPUK comment: We’re fascinated by this. The standard of proof for a cross compliance breach is lower than the standard of proof required for a criminal prosecution. A criminal conviction is NOT required for a cross compliance penalty to be imposed].

Question 5. What subsidy withdrawals have been made from anyone in receipt of money under the SPS in 2012 and 2013 as a result of these incidents?

Answer: No withdrawal of subsidy has been made from anyone under SPS 2012 and SPS 2013 as a result of these incidents.

END

A further FoI was submitted to RPW in May 2016, to try and understand why RPW thought there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to apply a penalty. Here are the questions that were asked, along with the answers received from RPW:

Question 6. Please can you tell me the date (day/month/year) that RPW first became aware of these poisoning incidents?

Answer: RPW first became aware of the poisoning incidents on 5 December 2013.

Question 7. Please could you provide information about the extent and type of enquiries RPW conducted when “considering the offences in question and concluding there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a cross compliance action”?

Answer: A formal police investigation was underway in this case and RPW undertook a review of the documentary evidence.

Question 8. Have the two claimaints been informed by RPW of the SMR1 and SMR9 breaches on their land?

Answer: No, RPW has not established any breaches to SMR1 and SMR9 on their land.

Question 9. Have the two claimants been interviewed by RPW about the incidents on their land?

Answer: No.

Question 10. Can copies of any correspondence between RPW and the claimants about these incidents be supplied (with personal details redacted)?

Answer: RPW has had no contact with the claimants over these incidents.

Question 11. What steps has RPW taken to prevent a reoccurence of these breaches?

Answer: RPW undertakes a programme of annual on site visits to farm businesses to ensure cross compliance requirements are respected.

END

To be honest, we’re completed baffled by RPW’s answers to questions 8-11. They’re either displaying overwhelming apathy, or they’re confused, or we’re confused. Confusion and apathy shouldn’t be unexpected – we saw a similar approach from the Rural Payments Agency (operating in England) when we challenged them about a subsidy withdrawal for the Stody Estate (Norfolk) after the discovery of mass raptor poisoning on their land. The confusion and apathy continued for a year, but, to their credit, the RPA did eventually get it right and imposed a large financial penalty on Stody Estate (see previous blogs here).

Are we going to have to go through the same process with Rural Payments Wales?

Was there a cross compliance breach or wasn’t there? If there was, why hasn’t a penalty been imposed? Why hasn’t RPW bothered to discuss these poisonings with the subsidy recipients? How can RPW claim, with straight faces, that their on site visits “ensure cross compliance requirements are respected”? If that’s the case, where was RPW in 2012 and 2013?

Emails to: RPWOnline@wales.gsi.gov.uk

There’s something decidedly rotten about this whole affair. The most significant wildlife poisoning incident ever uncovered in Wales, and the second largest in the UK in 40 years, on a prominent estate with strong royal connections, inside a National Park. Abject secrecy about these crimes from Dyfed Powys Police (until we started asking questions 3 years later), no criminal prosecution, and no subsidy penalty.

03
Jul
16

Further statement from Glanusk Estate re: mass raptor poisoning

Following on from yesterday’s blog about the Glanusk Estate statement on the illegal mass poisoning of raptors on their land (here), the Glanusk Estate trustees have issued a further statement:

Further Glanusk statement

A couple of things jumped out at us:

The incident involves a third party to Glanusk Estate and is nothing to do with the Management Team or the owners of the Estate“.

Clearly, the owners and Management Team were not directly responsible for setting out poisoned baits, or for picking up poisoned raptors and hiding them inside feed sacks next to a pheasant pen. That was the criminal action of a ‘third party’. But it’s irresponsible for the Management Team and owners of the Estate to claim ‘it is nothing to do with us’. It’s their responsibility, and theirs alone, to, er, ‘manage’ what happens on their Estate.

The question is, do the owners and Management Team know who that ‘third party’ was and if so, what action have they taken against that ‘third party’? Is the ‘third party’ still involved at Glanusk Estate? What measures, if any, have Glanusk Estate put in place to ensure the poisoning is not repeated? They say they have asked their visitors, tenants and friends to be vigilant, but is that enough? This mass poisoning took place over the period of a whole year and apparently nobody saw anything suspicious (!) so asking people to be vigilant is a start but hopefully it isn’t the Management Team’s only course of action!

The Welsh Government and the Dyfed Powys Police confirmed at the time that there was no risk to public health“.

Really? If that’s true, it would be an extraordinary statement for the Welsh Government & Dyfed Powys Police to make. According to the World Health Organisation, Bendiocarb (the poison that was used for these mass raptor killings) is listed as Class II for acute toxicity, indicating that it is moderately hazardous to humans if ingested or absorbed through the skin. Symptoms of Bendiocarb poisoning in humans are weakness, blurred vision, headache, nausea, abdominal cramps, low blood pressure, muscle tremours, uncoordination and heart irregularities. Death can result from discontinued breathing, paralysis of muscles of the respiratory system and/or intense constriction of the openings of the lungs. But don’t worry, the Welsh Government and Dyfed Powys Police said there was “no risk to public health”.

We’ll be blogging more about the Welsh Government’s role in this case shortly…..




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