Posts Tagged ‘carbofuran


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.


Three more poisoned red kites

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


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.


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




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.


Red kite illegally trapped on Scottish grouse moor has to be euthanised

rk by David TomlinsonThe BBC news website is reporting that a red kite that had been illegally trapped last week has had to be euthanised due to the severity of its injuries.

The kite was found ‘in distress and seriously injured’ on Wednesday 13th May 2015.

The article (see here) is fairly low on details, but what has been written is actually quite informative.

It quotes a Police Scotland spokesman: “This was clearly an intentional act with the sole purpose of trapping this kind of bird of prey“.

That tells us that the bird probably wasn’t caught inside a crow cage trap (by accident), but more than likely was caught in an uncovered, illegally-set spring trap, baited and deliberately placed to trap a bird of prey by its leg(s).

The article also states that the bird was found trapped ‘on moorland west of Stirling’. This is also pretty revealing. There isn’t much moorland to the west of Stirling and the moorland that is there is managed for grouse shooting (for those who don’t know the area, have a look on google maps and look for the tell-tale muirburn strips that identify the land as a grouse moor).

This latest raptor persecution crime is not the first one reported from this area in recent months. In July 2014, a poisoned red kite was found in the area. This crime wasn’t publicised by Police Scotland and didn’t reach the public domain until we blogged about it in January this year, when we found the details hidden away in a government report. At that time, we asked blog readers to contact SNH to ask whether they had issued a General Licence restriction order for the land where the poisoned kite had been found (see here).

In February 2015, Andrew Bachell, Director of Operations at SNH responded by saying the case was ‘under consideration’ (see here).

Meanwhile, later in February, a poisoned peregrine was found on the same estate (see here). It, too, had been killed by ingesting the banned poison Carbofuran.

According to the SNH website, a General Licence restriction order has still not been issued for this estate (or any other estate, come to that).

And now, three months later, an illegally trapped red kite is discovered in what appears to be the very same area.

Somebody (or some people?) is clearly conducting a campaign of raptor persecution crimes in this area. Where’s the enforcement? Why hasn’t a General Licence restriction order been issued for this area of moorland? Had one been issued for the poisoned red kite (July 2014) or the poisoned peregrine (Feb 2015), this latest crime may not have occurred and this poor red kite may not have had to suffer such appalling injuries that it had to be euthanised.

We think it’s time to ask Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod some questions about the apparent lack of enforcement action in this area. Only last month she wrote an article stating that “wildlife crime will not be tolerated in modern day Scotland” and she specifically mentioned the General Licence restriction orders: “Arrangements are also in place for SNH to restrict the use of general licences where there is evidence of wildlife crime” (see here).

So, if “arrangements are also in place”, why hasn’t a General Licence restriction notice already been enforced in this particular area and when might we see notification that one has been issued? It’s time for the Government Minister responsible for tackling wildlife crime to show her mettle. Emails to:

Red kite photo by David Tomlinson


Pesticide disposal scheme reveals massive stash of banned poisons

PoisonIn February this year the Scottish Government launched the latest ‘pesticide disposal scheme’ – a free service allowing those who are still in possession of certain banned poisons an opportunity to get rid of them without fear of consequence.

We had mixed feelings about this scheme (see here), not least a sense of frustration that ten years after many of these poisons were banned, the criminals still in possession would have yet another opportunity to escape justice. However, this feeling was outweighed by the importance of removing these substances so they could no longer be (illegally) held / used.

Two and a half months in to the scheme, the Scottish Government has today announced that the scheme will end on 29th May 2015 – press release here.

According to this press release, so far the scheme has received requests for 99 poisons to be collected. These are as follows:

Sodium Cyanide (44)

Strychnine (30)

Aluminium Phosphide (8)

Mevinphos (5)

Carbofuran (5)

(Alpha)Chloralose (4)

Unknown (2)

Aldicarb (1)

We were particularly interested in the amount of Carbofuran that had been handed in – apparently more than 80kg from just five sites.

sugar80kg of the gamekeepers’ ‘poison of choice’! That’s an incredibly large stash. To put it in context, the largest stash found to date was 10.5kg – recovered during a raid on Skibo Estate in 2010 after the discovery of three poisoned golden eagles. The RSPB calculated that that was enough to kill every single raptor in Scotland six times over (see here). Bear in mind that Carbofuran is so highly toxic that it only takes a couple of grains to kill; imagine how much damage 80kg of the stuff could do – imagine the equivalent of 80 bags of 1kg sugar and the hundreds of thousands of granules inside each of those bags!

It’s frightening to think how much more Carbofuran has been stockpiled on estates and farms across Scotland. If 80kg has been recovered from land users who have no intention of using it, imagine how much is being kept hidden by those who have no intention of handing it in but every intention of continuing to use it.

It’ll be interesting to see just how much more is handed in before the end of the disposal scheme, and even more interesting to see what sort of sentence the next inevitable poisoning case will bring.

The release of today’s information is interesting to us for another reason, too. On 27th March, one of our blog readers submitted an FoI to the Scottish Government to ask for the following information relating to the pesticide disposal scheme:

1. The type and number of poisons handed in since the scheme began on 23 February 2015 to date.

2. The cost of the scheme to date.

3. The first three letters of postcodes from where the poisons had been collected.

Our blog reader knew that all this information was being collated by the Scottish Government and he also knew that the scheme was on-going, so he qualified his questions by adding ‘to date’ at the end.

Here’s the reply he received last week:



Thank you for your request dated 27 March 2015 under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs).

Your request

You asked to be provided with the following information:

  1. The type and number of poisons handed in since the scheme began on 23 Feb 2015 to date.
  2. The cost of the scheme to date.
  3. The first three letters of postcodes from where the poisons have been collected.

As the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations.  We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’.  Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.  We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes.  This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

Response to your request

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance an exception under regulation 10(4)(d) (unfinished or incomplete information) of the EIRs applies to all of the information you have requested. This exemption applies because that information is still in the course of completion.  We are unable to provide the information you have requested because the scheme has not been concluded. As the scheme has not yet closed the data you have requested is still being collated, some of this work is being undertaken by an external administrator. We intend to publish some details in respect of your points 1 and 3 in a press release ahead of the closure of the scheme; this is likely to be issued before the end of May 2015.  When the scheme is formally closed and a final report is given to the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, further information, including costs related to the scheme will be published.

This exception is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and this will be met by our planned publication. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that unfinished or incomplete information which is still in being worked on is not disclosed when it might misinform the public.


That’s a fascinating response. They refused to release ‘unfinished or incomplete information’ to an individual member of the public, and yet a week later they publish, er, ‘unfinished or incomplete information’ in an official government press release!

It’s also interesting to note that Scottish Land & Estates published a news article on their website, dated 9th April 2015, stating that more than 80 calls had been taken by the scheme (see here). The question is, how did SLE get that privileged information and did they get it from the Scottish Government?

One rule for one and one rule for another? Surely not.


Henry’s Tour: Day 19

Fri 24 April Copy

Henry went for a skydance across the lawns of Holkham Hall in north Norfolk.

This place is home to Viscount Coke, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of that well-known raptor-loving organisation Songbird Survival.

In 2000, a Holkham Estate gamekeeper was prosecuted for 17 offences including the shooting of two kestrels and the poisoning of a third. He kept his job on the estate. Case write-up here.

In 2009, a dead buzzard was found at Holkham. It had been shot. The Holkham Estate put up a £500 reward for information leading to a conviction, as did the RSPB. Nobody was ever prosecuted.

Henry didn’t see any female hen harriers during his visit but he did watch a buzzard and three red kites. One kite had what some would call the ‘Malta Moult’ – a large hole blown through the feathers of one wing.

Henry thought it was time to get out of Norfolk but not before he called in for tea and cake with the legendary Richard Porter, author of the 1974 classic Flight Identification of European Raptors. More recently, Richard’s studies on the local buzzard population helped to convict Stody Estate gamekeeper Allen Lambert. Lambert had claimed that the ten poisoned buzzards found on the Stody Estate had been killed elsewhere and then ‘dumped’ on his estate in an attempt to set him up. His defence was to claim that they couldn’t possibly have been poisoned at Stody because there weren’t that many local buzzards to start with. He hadn’t banked on the evidence of one of the world’s leading raptor ID experts, who had recorded 233 buzzard sightings and had counted 73 pairs. Oops.

Thurs 23 April  Copy



Number of poisoned raptors in Scotland more than quadrupled in 2014

Persecution map 2010 to 2014 - CopyThe Scottish Government has today released the annual poisoning and persecution maps relating to crimes against raptors in 2014.

The accompanying press release is a careful study in damage limitation. We can’t blame them – it must be a constant source of embarrassment for them that raptor persecution continues with virtual impunity so of course they’re going to put out a statement that showcases the positives (there aren’t that many) and plays down the negatives (there are many).

The basic premise of their press release is that reported raptor crimes (incidents) have dropped from 23 in 2013 to 19 in 2014. Sounds like progress, eh? But wait – what if you look at the actual number of persecuted raptors – that tells a completely different story!

Let’s ignore the different types of persecution crimes (e.g. shooting, trapping, disturbance) for a minute and just start with poisoning. Here are the Government’s official number of reported poisoning incidents for the last three years:

2014: 6

2013: 6

2012: 3

So on the face of it, no change from last year and still double the number of reported incidents in 2012. But now let’s look at the number of reported individual raptors that were poisoned over those three years:

2014: 27 (17 x red kite; 7 x buzzard; 1 x peregrine; 2 x unknown because Police Scotland hasn’t released the data)

2013: 6 (1 x red kite; 4 x buzzard; 1 x golden eagle – data from Scot Gov annual report on wildlife crime)

2012: 3 (2 x buzzard; 1 x golden eagle – data from Scot Gov annual report on wildlife crime)

That’s quite an increase, isn’t it? Three reported in 2012, 6 in 2013 and a whopping 27 reported in 2014. Does that sound like raptor poisoning in Scotland is in decline? Nope, it shows that the number of poisoned raptors actually quadrupled in 2014.

However, the Government doesn’t agree that 27 raptors were poisoned in 2014. According to their data, only 16 raptors were poisoned in the Ross-shire Massacre (12 red kites + 4 buzzards). They seem to have conveniently forgotten that 22 dead birds were found, not 16. Even Environment Minister Aileen McLeod ignores the ‘missing six’ and just refers to the poisoned 16 in today’s press release! Sure, there may only be toxicology reports for 16 of those victims – we don’t know the cause of death for the remaining six victims because Police Scotland hasn’t bothered to tell us. But surely they and the Scottish Government aren’t trying to convince us that the remaining six victims (four red kites + two buzzards) weren’t poisoned at all, but that they all just happened to die of natural causes at the same time and in the same fields as the other 16 poisoned birds? Come on. Why try and diminish the extent of such an appalling crime?

And, once again, the poisoning maps exclude other crimes where bait was discovered but with no apparent raptor victim. We know of at least one of these incidents that occurred in 2014 – a poisoned rook found in January close to a poisoned rabbit bait and a poisoned hare bait (Carbofuran & Chloralose) (here). Why doesn’t this count?

Now let’s have a look at the other types of raptor persecution crimes reported in 2014. These include shooting, trapping and disturbance. According to the Government’s data released today, there were 8 reported shootings, 2 reported trapping offences, 1 reported disturbance incident and 2 listed as ‘other’.

Interestingly, they’ve excluded incidents where satellite-tagged raptors have (un)mysteriously disappeared in known persecution hotspot areas, such as the young white-tailed eagle (see here) and several others that Police Scotland has so far chosen to keep under wraps.

They’ve also excluded incidents where illegally-set traps have been found but without an apparent raptor victim. Again, the police have chosen to keep these under wraps. Why don’t those count?

So let’s now look at the Government’s ‘official’ three-year figures for all types of raptor persecution incidents in Scotland (including poisoning, shooting, trapping, disturbance, and ‘other’):

2014: 19

2013: 23

2012: 13

As we said at the beginning, on a superficial level it appears that reported raptor persecution incidents have declined since 2013, although we now know that the Government has excluded several known incidents, and we also know that these are only the reported crimes – many more will have occurred but weren’t detected. But let’s have a look at the number of known raptor victims during that three-year period:

2014: 40

2013: 23

2012: 13

That’s pretty clear then. Illegal raptor persecution continued in 2014 and the number of (known) victims rose considerably from the previous year and the year before that.

What an utter disgrace.

Scottish Government press release here

Scottish Government’s persecution maps and background data can be downloaded here:

Scottish Gov background raptor persecution data (released 31 Mar 2015)

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