Posts Tagged ‘carbofuran

17
Jan
16

Appalling Police Scotland response to two suspected raptor crimes

BOPwildlifecrimeposter2015 - CopyRegular blog readers will know that we’ve frequently had cause to criticise Police Scotland’s response to suspected wildlife crimes that have been reported to them. Well, we’re about to do it again over their mishandling of two recently reported suspected wildlife crime incidents, one in Dumfries & Galloway and one in South Lanarkshire.

Before we get to the details of the latest fiascos, have a read of the following text that appeared in on page 32 of RSPB Scotland’s recently published 20-year review of raptor persecution:

After the initial finding or reporting of a potential wildlife crime incident, a rapid and properly-directed follow-up is essential to prevent any evidence being removed by the perpetrator, further wildlife falling victim to illegal poisons or traps, removal of victims by scavengers or decomposition of victims. Any of these factors can render obtaining forensic evidence or an accurate post-mortem impossible. In our experience, however, the speed and effectiveness of follow-up investigations and securing of evidence has been highly variable‘.

It is apparent, from the following two incidents, that Police Scotland is still failing to get the basics right.

Incident 1

A member of the public found a decomposing dead buzzard on a grouse moor in an area well-known for its history of raptor persecution. The corpse was found on Saturday 19th December 2015. It was reported to members of the local Raptor Study Group who went to the grid reference provided (just 150 yards from a main road) and confirmed it was indeed a dead buzzard. They reported it to Police Scotland on the morning of Monday 21st December and were told that an officer would attend to collect the corpse and send it for post mortem. Raptor workers went back to the site the next day (Tuesday 22nd) and the corpse was still there. They returned on Wednesday 23rd and the corpse was still there. They returned on Thursday 24th and the corpse was still there. They returned on Saturday 26th and the corpse was still there. They returned on Sunday 27th and the corpse was still there. They returned on Monday 28th December, one week after reporting it to the police, and the corpse had gone. Whether it had finally been collected by Police Scotland or whether it had been scavenged by an animal or removed by a gamekeeper, nobody knows.

Incident 2

On 28th December 2015 a member of the public found a freshly-dead buzzard in a wood, with no obvious cause of death. Previously, snares placed over the entrance of a badger sett had been found in this wood. The nearest grouse moor is approx 1.5 miles away. Because of the history of the location, the member of the public was suspicious and took the buzzard home and called Police Scotland on 101. The member of the public was told by the Police Scotland call operator that the police were unable to help. “In fact at one point he suggested that I take it to a vet or call the ‘RS bird people’. He said that the police could only help if they actually caught the offenders at the scene in which case they would be prosecuted for poaching“. Undeterred, the member of the public found an email address for the local police wildlife crime officer but got an out-of-office reply saying nobody was available until 17th January 2016. Fortunately, a local raptor worker was able to collect the corpse and got in touch with RSPB Scotland who organised for the bird to be sent for post mortem.

The Police Scotland response to both of these incidents was appalling. Now, it may well turn out that in both cases the birds died of natural causes and no crimes had been committed. However, it’s equally plausible, especially given the incident locations, that these birds had been killed illegally. The point is, it’s Police Scotland’s job to investigate these incidents and determine whether a crime has been committed. Their action (and inaction) in these two cases could have severely compromised the outcome.

You may remember a similar incident, not a million miles from these two locations, that happened in 2014. In that case, a dead peregrine had been found by a member of the public but Police Scotland again failed to attend the scene, saying it wasn’t a police matter (see here). The peregrine was collected by RSPB Scotland and the post mortem revealed it had been poisoned with the banned pesticide Carbofuran. Police Scotland’s failure to attend that incident caused quite a stir, with the story being covered in a national newspaper (here) and it also led to questions being asked in Parliament about Police Scotland’s failed response (see here). Police Scotland denied they’d done anything wrong!

In March last year, following the publication of a damning report on the police’s response to various types of wildlife crime incidents over several years, Police Scotland launched an all-singing-all-dancing Wildlife Crime Awareness Campaign, endorsed by the Environment Minister (see here). This campaign (which we welcomed – see here) focused on the six national wildlife crime priorities, including raptor persecution, and included the production of all sorts of campaign material (posters etc) designed to encourage members of the public to report suspected wildlife crimes. That’s all good, but what’s the point if Police Scotland then can’t get their act together to provide a professional response when members of the public report suspicious incidents?

Is it really so hard?

If they’re under-resourced, fine, then they should say so and should be supporting the move to increase the investigatory powers of the SSPCA, not trying to block it. Talking of which, when will Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod make a decision on the SSPCA’s powers? It’s now been 16 months since the public consultation closed. Getting to grips with wildlife crime is supposed to be a ‘key priority’ for the Scottish Government. In February, it’ll be five years since the consultation was first proposed!

03
Jan
16

More raptor persecution uncovered in the Scottish Borders

We’re still working our way through RSPB Scotland’s recently published twenty-year review (see here) and what a fascinating read it’s proving to be. We’ve already blogged about two things that caught our eye (see here and here), and now here’s the third.

On page 14 of the report, the following has been written:

Lines 5, 6 and 7 of Table 4 describe the finding at one site, in an area intensively managed for driven grouse shooting, of a set crow trap, hidden within a small area of woodland, which was found to contain two feral pigeons indubitably being used as illegal lures to attract birds of prey. Under a tree, only a few metres away, were found the decomposed carcasses of four buzzards that had been shot, while a short distance from the crow trap a pigeon was found in a small circular cage, with four set spring traps set on the ground, hidden under moss, attached to the trap“.

Here’s a copy of Table 4, with lines 5, 6 and 7 highlighted:

Nr Heriot 2014

Also included in the report is a photograph of the pigeon inside a small cage with the four set spring traps hidden under moss:

Pigeon in trap Heriot 2014

So, according to the RSPB report, these offences were uncovered in May 2014 on a driven grouse moor in the Borders, with the location given as “nr Heriot“. Funny, we don’t remember seeing anything in the press about these crimes.

Hmm. Could these wildlife crimes be in any way related to SNH’s recent decision to serve a General Licence restriction order on parts of the Raeshaw Estate and Corsehope Estate (see here)? Both Raeshaw Estate and neighbouring Corsehope Estate can be described as being ‘nr Heriot’; indeed, the recorded property address for Raeshaw Estate is given as ‘Raeshaw House, Heriot, EH38 5YE’ (although the owner is only listed as Raeshaw Holdings Ltd., registered in the Channel Islands, natch), according to Andy Wightman’s excellent Who Owns Scotland website. And according to SNH, the General Licence restriction order on these two estates was served due to “issues about the illegal placement of traps” (see here). It’s possible that they’re connected, but it’s also possible that these crimes are unconnected with SNH’s General Licence restriction order on these two estates because Raeshaw isn’t the only grouse moor that could be described as being ‘nr Heriot’. Unfortunately, the (lack of) detail available in the public domain doesn’t allow us to be conclusive. Perhaps there’ll be some transparency once the legal arguments (see here) about the General Licence restrictions have concluded (which should happen fairly soon). Then again, perhaps there won’t.

If these crimes were not uncovered on either the Raeshaw or Corsehope Estates, we hope there’ll at least be a General Licence restriction order served on whichever grouse moor these traps were found because there’s been a clear breach of the General Licence rules – pigeons are not permitted as decoy birds in crow cage traps; set spring traps are not permitted out in the open; oh, and shooting buzzards is also illegal. There should also be a prosecution of course, but that’s highly improbable given the track record of non-prosecutions for raptor crimes uncovered in this part of the Borders.

There’s been a long history of raptor persecution “nr Heriot“, dating back to at least 2001. Here’s a list we’ve compiled of confirmed raptor persecution crimes, all listed within RSPB annual reports:

2001 May: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot Dale”. No prosecution

2003 Feb: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2003 Mar: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2003 Apr: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2003 Nov: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2004 Feb: Carbofuran (possession for use) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2004 Feb: two poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2004 Oct: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2005 Dec: poisoned buzzard & raven (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2006 Sep: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2006 Oct: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2009 Mar: two poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2009 Jun: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2009 Jun: 4 x poisoned baits (2 x rabbits; 2 x pigeons) (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2010 Nov: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2011 Jan: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot” No prosecution

2013 Jun: shot + poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2014 May: crow trap baited with two live pigeon decoys “nr Heriot”. Prosecution?

2014 May: four set spring traps beside live pigeon decoy “nr Heriot”. Prosecution?

2014 May: four shot buzzards “nr Heriot” Prosecution?

Not included in an RSPB annual report (because it happened this year): 2015 Jul: shot buzzard “found by side of road between Heriot and Innerleithen” according to media reports (see here). Prosecution?

Interestingly, also not included in the RSPB’s annual reports but reported by the Southern Reporter (here) and the Guardian (here), a police raid on Raeshaw Estate in 2004 uncovered nine dead birds of prey, including five barn owls, two buzzards, a kestrel and a tawny owl, described as being “poisoned or shot“. In addition, “a number of illegal poisons were discovered but no-one was ever prosecuted“. According to both these articles, during a further police raid on Raeshaw in 2009 ‘three injured hunting dogs were seized by the SSPCA on suspicion of involvement with badger baiting’. We don’t know whether that resulted in a prosecution.

Fascinating stuff.

28
Oct
15

Ross-shire Massacre: local MSP tries again for review of police investigation

In November 2014, Dave Thompson, the local MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, wrote to the then Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, to ask for a review of how Police Scotland had handled the investigation into the deaths of 22 raptors that had been found poisoned near Conon Bridge (the Ross-shire Massacre). The Police had been severely criticised for their handling of this case, not just for the investigation itself but also for what many of us believed to be an appalling media strategy. We blogged about it here.

Here is a copy of Dave Thompson’s letter to the Cabinet Secretary:

Dave Thompson MSP letter to Justice Sec

We didn’t hear anything further so an FoI was recently submitted to the Justice Department to find out what had happened.

It turns out that in December 2014 Mr MacAskill’s successor, Michael Matheson, had responded to Dave Thompson’s request by stating that he couldn’t comment about a live, on-going police investigation but suggested that Mr Thompson should raise any concerns with the Chief Constable. Here is a copy of Mr Matheson’s letter:

Justice Minister letter

Almost a year on from his first request, and with no sign that the Police investigation has made any progress in the 18 months since the dead birds were discovered (see here), Dave Thompson has now written to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland to urge him to issue an interim report on the first stages of the Police investigation of this case. His second request for a review was no doubt influenced by the recent release of an excellent short documentary video (see here) about the mass poisoning.

Dave Thompson MSP said: “I appreciate the need to await the full review into the investigation, especially as the case is live, and as such, we must be sensitive to the investigative process.

However, I feel enough time has elapsed that the general public are owed an explanation of where the case is at, which is why I have requested an interim review to be issued by Police Scotland, so we can see how the process has been handled in the early stages.

I have written to the Chief Constable and copied in the Chief Superintendent, Julian Innes, and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, on the matter.

I look forward to hearing back from the Chief Constable as soon as is practically possible on what is an issue that still remains a concern to many of my constituents and beyond“.

Here is the transcript of his latest letter:

Dear Chief Constable,

Given the length of time that has passed and the failure to date to bring a culprit to justice, I am writing to ask if Police Scotland could issue an interim report on the first stages of the investigation, perhaps the first six months, into the raptor deaths around Conon Bridge. 

As you know there is considerable public anger at the incident and I believe this would go some way to helping people understand how seriously the Police are taking the investigation and the constraints you may have been under in the early stages.

Yours sincerely

Dave Thompson SNP MSP

END

22
Oct
15

Red sky on the Black Isle: new film on the Ross-shire Massacre

A short, 12 minute film has been released about the 2014 Ross-shire Massacre, the mass illegal poisoning of 22 red kites and buzzards.

Entitled ‘Red Sky on the Black Isle’, this is an excellent film and includes interviews with some of the key individuals involved with the investigation which, as you’ll know, still remains unsolved 19 months on (see here).

Watch the film here

Rossshire Massacre film

18
Sep
15

Ross-shire Massacre: 18 months on

sleeping policeman 2It’s been 18 months since the corpses of 22 birds of prey (16 red kites and 6 buzzards) were found in a small area around Conon Bridge in the Highlands.

We know that 16 of these birds were illegally poisoned (12 red kites & 4 buzzards). Still no word on the other six victims.

Still no word on the type of poison used, although Police Scotland did eventually admit that it was an “illegally-held poisonous substance” (see here). Carbofuran is suspected by many of us (see here).

The details of this illegal mass poisoning have still been deliberately excluded from the quarterly SASA reports – the Government reports that are supposed to inform us about recent illegal poisoning crimes in Scotland.

Police Scotland still maintains that the birds “were most likely not targeted deliberately but instead were the victims of pest control measures” (see here) – even though they can’t possibly know this unless they have a suspect who has given a full confession.

We’re still waiting to hear whether MSP Dave Thompson’s request, back in November 2014, for a review of Police Scotland’s handling of this investigation will be undertaken (see here).

We’re still waiting to hear when the thousands of pounds worth of reward funds, that many of us donated, will be released by Police Scotland so that RSPB Scotland can redistribute them to support the work of their investigations team (see here).

Two months ago in July 2015 MSP Bill Kidd called on Police Scotland to tell the public more about the investigation (see here). We’re still waiting.

18 months on and still no arrests.

18 months on and still no charges.

18 months on and still no prosecution.

18 months on and still no conviction.

18 months on and still no justice.

18 months on and still no confidence in Police Scotland’s ability to solve this appalling crime.

Previous posts on the Ross-shire Massacre here.

11
Sep
15

Three more poisoned red kites

WT J 1 as I foundThe following press release has been issued today by FoRK (Friends of Red Kites) –

POISONING OF RED KITES CONDEMNED

Three red kites have been found illegally poisoned in a blow to efforts to re-establish a thriving population across north east England.

One found near a grouse moor died from Carbofuran poisoning despite the use of the chemical being banned in Britain since 2002. The two others were found together and died as a result of poisoning by Aldicarb, a widely-used pesticide which has been implicated in deliberate poisonings elsewhere in Britain.

The bodies of all three were recovered and sent for post-mortem examination after tip-offs from the public.

The three deaths, revealed by Friends of Red Kites (FoRK), the voluntary group set up to protect and monitor the population, brings the region’s total number of known kite casualties from illegal poisoning to ten in recent years.

FoRK has condemned the killings but fears that the known deaths are just the tip of the iceberg and that many more dead birds are never found. It believes that persistent persecution, mainly through illegal poisoned baits, is among factors preventing the birds from spreading from their core Derwent Valley sites.

The bird killed by Carbofuran was found near Edmundbyers, Co Durham. The two others were found at High Spen, Gateshead, and included a wing-tagged female from a nearby breeding site which had produced young for the previous four years.

Previous poisoning involved two kites found dead in Hexhamshire and a breeding pair killed near Whittonstall whose chicks then perished in the nest. Other local kites were found poisoned in Teesdale and Wharfedale, Yorkshire. Another bird, which moved to Scotland, was found poisoned in the Cairngorms. Other kites have been found in suspicious circumstances but have been dead too long for scientific examination.

Allan Withrington, FoRK Kite Welfare Officer, said: “These poisonings are appalling and totally unacceptable. Carbofuran has been illegal in this country for many years but is still apparently the poison of choice of those who illegally put out poisoned baits to target raptors, crows and foxes. 

Leaving poisoned baits in the open is not only illegal but completely indiscriminate as the deaths of many bird and animals, including dogs and cats, has shown over the years.

We will be continuing to do everything possible to expose those responsible and work with the police, farmers, landowners and other conservation organisations to protect the red kites and other species.”

The most recent available figures from the RSPB show that there were 76 confirmed cases of illegal poisoning in Britain in 2013, including 19 from Carbofuran and 5 from Albicarb. Twenty-one red kites were among the victims which also included buzzard, white-tailed eagle, golden eagle and marsh harrier. Raven, magpie, sparrowhawk and even a collared dove also died along with two dogs and two cats.

Britain’s single worst recorded wildlife poisoning incident occurred in April 2014 with red kites being the main victims. 16 kites and six buzzards were found dead near Inverness. Despite a major investigation by Police Scotland and rewards totalling £32,000 being offered no-one has been charged.

ENDS

There are a number of interesting facets to this press release. Firstly, no dates are given for when these birds were found poisoned. We can’t be certain, but the press release may refer to three poisoned kites that were discovered in Co Durham in 2014: two in November 2014 and one in December 2014, according to government statistics. It’s possible that the three kites mentioned in the above press release were poisoned this year, but the published government stats only cover the first quarter of 2015 (up until March) and no poisoned kites in Co Durham are present in those figures. These days we have to wait more than six months to find out what’s actually been going on more recently so if they were poisoned after March 2015 we might find out about it ‘officially’ sometime after Christmas.

The second interesting point about this press release is it has come from FoRK. Here’s how FoRK describe themselves:

The Friends of Red Kites (FoRK) is a constituted, membership-based, community organisation which was formed by volunteers in 2009 to continue to encourage an active interest in the conservation of the red kite population in Gateshead’s Lower Derwent Valley and to continue to monitor their health & welfare.

FoRK is the successor to the funded Northern Kites Project which was responsible for the re-introduction of 94 young red kites in the core area between 2004 – 2009. In 2006 red kites began to breed in the region for the first time after an absence of 170 years.

Interesting then that a voluntary, community-based organisation has issued this press statement, and not the police and not Natural England. Has FoRK issued this press statement because they’re tired of waiting for action by the authorities? Was there a police follow up? Was there a follow up by Natural England? If these three birds were poisoned in November and December 2014, why haven’t the police or Natural England said anything? Could their (apparent) silence / inaction have anything to do with the localities of the poisoned carcasses? Check out the village of Edmundbyers on a Google Earth map – see all those weird rectangular shapes on the hills surrounding the village? They’re the tell-tale muirburn strips (burnt heather) that indicate that this area is dominated by driven grouse moors.

Say no more.

Petition to ban driven grouse shooting – PLEASE SIGN HERE

Friends of Red Kites (FoRK) website here

Edmundbyers

 

16
Jun
15

Henry’s tour day 45: Dinnet

Tues 16 June  Copy

Henry called in at Dinnet (Deeside) but would only visit in daylight hours – here’s why.

It’s actually not all that safe in the daytime either – here’s why.

Welcome to the Cairngorms National Park.




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