Posts Tagged ‘golden eagle


Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project: a detailed insight

Regular blog readers will know that there are currently two separate projects, by two very different organisations, considering the reintroduction of eagles in to Wales.

[Golden eagle photo by Steve Liptrot]

One organisation called ‘Wilder Britain‘, headed by Dr Paul O’Donoghue, is apparently seeking to reintroduce a total of ten golden eagles to Snowdonia National Park but he’s what might be described as a ‘controversial’ figure (google Lynx reintroduction and Wildcat Haven for examples or just read the previous blogs, linked below) and the detailed specifics of his eagle reintroduction research and proposed plan have yet to be made public.

The other organisation, called Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project and headed by Sophie-Lee Williams, is currently assessing the feasibility of reintroducing golden and white-tailed eagles across Wales and has conducted extensive research to inform its proposals. Some of this research has already been published in peer-reviewed journals (e.g. here) and more output is expected shortly. The ERW Project is working with Cardiff University (where Sophie-Lee has just completed her PhD on this topic) and is liaising closely with a network of national and international eagle experts.

For previous blogs about these projects please see herehereherehereherehereherehere and here for background.

This year due to the pandemic, the ERW Project is short of the Government funding that is needed to complete the feasibility studies. ERW has set up a crowdfunder (here) to raise £25K to pay for a full-time researcher to continue this work and conduct public consultations. So far almost £6.5K has been raised. The crowdfunder was due to close last week but has just been extended for a further two weeks to try and attract more support.

For those of you interested in the ERW Project, have a look at this video of Sophie-Lee recently discussing her research findings with the Royal Society of Biology. Her talk lasts for approx 50 minutes and then there’s over an hour of questions and answers. It’s well worth your time.

If you’re able to support the ERW crowdfunder with a small donation please click here.


Proposed golden eagle reintroduction in Wales – the saga continues

Regular blog readers will be aware of an on-going controversy about plans to reintroduce golden eagles to Wales. There are two separate groups involved, with two very different approaches -see herehereherehereherehere, here and here for previous blogs.

[Young golden eagle, photo by Getty Images]

You may remember in September there was a parliamentary discussion in the Senedd (Welsh Parliament), later reported in the local press, where Siân Gwenllian, the Member of the Senedd for the Arfon constituency and Shadow Minister for Plaid Cymru, had raised concerns about the project with the Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths MS and urged her not to support reintroduction plans (see here).

There’s been an update on that. During a radio discussion broadcast on BBC Radio Cymru on 25th September 2020 between Dewi Llywd (host), Iolo Williams (conservationist & TV presenter), politician Siân Gwenllian and Rhys Owen (Head of Conversation & Agriculture, Snowdonia National Park) there was clarification from Ms Gwenllian that her opposition was aimed specifically at the reintroduction proposal from Paul O’Donoghue of Wilder Britain, and not for the research being undertaken by the opposing group, Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project.

The discussion was in Welsh and a blog reader has provided a transcript but I’m not going to publish it because the programme has since been removed from the BBC website, apparently for ‘technical’ reasons, but I suspect there may be legal issues afoot. Suffice to say, the Wilder Britain proposal wasn’t supported by any of the panel members, mostly because of the perceived lack of transparency, accountability and poor communication.

It’s not clear at what stage the Wilder Britain proposal has reached because statutory agency Natural Resources Wales hasn’t responded properly to a pretty simple Freedom of Information request that was submitted two months ago in mid-August! A formal complaint has been lodged.

Meanwhile, the other research group, Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project, affiliated with Cardiff University, is about to go under. Its funding runs out in November, thanks to Covid-related difficulties, and the group is making a last-ditch attempt to crowdfund support to see it through to April 2021 when Government funding is reopened.

Without funding, the group’s careful three-year project will come to a premature end, just at the time when its research is needed the most. If you can help with a small contribution, please visit the crowdfunder page HERE (it closes at the end of this week).


The eagle’s satellite tag found in the river: poetic injustice

Further to last Friday’s shocking news that a missing golden eagle’s satellite tag had been found in a river in Strathbraan, with aerial and harness cut and the tag wrapped in lead sheeting, presumably in an attempt to block the tag’s signal and conceal any evidence of criminal behaviour (see here), there’s an interesting background story to this particular eagle.

Cast your minds back three and half years to this blog (here) written in March 2017.

Here are the, ahem, ‘highlights’:

This photograph has been repeatedly posted on Facebook and other social media platforms as an example of ‘bad practice’ at a raptor tagging event. It shows a group of people at an eagle nest site in Perthshire in 2014. According to Bert Burnett of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, who has posted this image several times, these people, including Duncan Orr-Ewing of RSPB Scotland, are “having a picnic underneath an eagle nest” for several hours and thus by implication are causing unnecessary disturbance at the site and causing the adult birds to desert.

What’s actually happening here is a group of people, including four licensed experts and their invited guests, have climbed to an eagle nest site and while the climbers have gone to retrieve the eaglet from the nest so its satellite tag can be fitted in safety on the ground, Duncan is eating a sandwich. That’s it. It’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic, or is that just Bert?

Another photograph that Bert has circulated was also taken at this site on the same day. It shows Duncan quite rightly checking the fit of the young eagle’s sat tag harness before the bird is put back in its nest.

This photograph elicited all sorts of comments on social media, with suggestions that sat tagging golden eagles is harmful to the birds, that it’s detrimental to their survival and one person even claiming that “they [the raptor fieldworkers] are a far greater threat to birds than any shooting interests“.

He posted another photograph (which we won’t post here for legal reasons) that shows a woman and her son on the nest ledge after the eagle had been returned to its nest. Bert said this about it: “What happens to birds after tagging is very questionable. Allowing your families and friends to climb up intae the nest just for photo shoots is totally out of order and shows no concern for the birds future welfare“. On a later post he also claimed the woman had been “hoisted in to the nest“. What the photo actually shows is a Schedule 1 licence holder and her son who have just climbed to the nest to return the eagle after tagging. It’s probably hard for Bert to comprehend that a woman might actually be a Schedule 1 licence holder and that she’d be capable of climbing to the nest without being “hoisted in” (surely her breasts would get in the way?) but when your mindset is firmly stuck in the 18th century then it’s probably no surprise at all.

As for Bert’s comment, “What happens to birds after tagging is very questionable“, well, it’s not questionable in this case. This eagle was satellite tagged in Perthshire in 2014. The bird fledged successfully and its movements were tracked until 2016 when its tag signal suddenly stopped transmitting and the eagle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Perthshire. We’d respectfully suggest that this eagle’s disappearance (probable death) was not caused by Duncan eating a sandwich at its natal site two years earlier nor by it being put back in to the nest by a woman, but was more than likely caused by illegal poisoning, illegal trapping or illegal shooting on or near a grouse moor in the Highlands.


Little did we or Bert Burnett, then a Director of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, imagine that this eagle would hit the headlines three and a half years later when its tag was found cut and wrapped in lead sheeting having been dumped in the river in one of Scotland’s most notorious raptor-killing hotspots – the grouse moors of Strathbraan, where eight satellite-tagged eagles have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in recent years.

This background information clearly exposes the desperate lies and false accusations used by some in the grouse shooting industry to deflect attention from the bleedin’ obvious and instead used to undermine the integrity and professionalism of those conservationists working hard to protect this species in the face of relentless persecution.

These fabrications were made in the build up to the publication of the Government-commissioned Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, which was published in May 2017. It’s findings were damning.

Unbelievably, the lies from the grouse shooting industry continue. Over the last few days there have been a number of so-called ‘explanations’ from within the grouse shooting industry for what might have happened to this eagle and how it’s satellite tag ended up in the river wrapped in lead sheeting. They seek to have the public believe that this is ‘a set up’ – that conservationists (and some of them named, libellously, as perverting the course of justice) found the dead eagle several years ago after it died of natural causes and they apparently decided to ‘plant’ the tag in the river to make it look suspicious.

Fortunately, the public, the police and Government Ministers are not fooled.

All eyes on the Scottish Government’s imminent response to the Werritty review on grouse moor licensing.


Missing eagle’s satellite tag found cut & wrapped in lead, dumped in river at Strathbraan

Well, well, well.

Press release from RSPB Scotland (25th September 2020)

Shocking discovery reveals lengths raptor killers will go to to conceal crimes

Recovered satellite tag provides answers to what happens when birds of prey ‘disappear’ on Scotland’s grouse moors

A satellite tag removed from a ‘disappeared’ golden eagle has been recovered from a Highland river.

The discovery sheds new light on the activities that criminals will go to in a bid to cover up the illegal killing of protected birds of prey.

[The eagle satellite tag #129014, wrapped in lead casing, found at the side of the River Braan. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

In 2016 the bird’s tag stopped transmitting suddenly on a grouse moor in Perthshire and despite searches by Police and RSPB Scotland, it was never traced.

Now the tag has been found – wrapped in heavy lead sheeting and disposed of at a popular beauty spot just a few miles from the last known location of the bird.

The recovered tag is further evidence in just how far criminals who routinely kill birds of prey are going to in a bid to cover their tracks and to present driven grouse shooting as a clean industry.

The object was spotted by a walker and his son on the banks of the River Braan near Dunkeld in Perthshire on 21st May.

On closer examination, they found the tag wrapped in a piece of lead sheeting. The tag bore a label bearing contact details and a serial number, subsequently allowing the police and RSPB to jointly attend recover and identify the object.

Police Scotland have since held the tag for several months to conduct forensic analysis, which is ongoing.

After fledging from its nest, this young eagle had remained on its parents’ territory until November 2014. Over the following 18 months, it explored Scotland’s uplands before it moved into Strathbraan. Within a few days of arriving here, on 1st May 2016 his tag, that had been functioning exactly as would have expected, suddenly and inexplicably stopped. It was suspected that the bird had been killed, and the tag destroyed.

[The young golden eagle fitted with the satellite tag #129014 in 2014. Photo Scottish Raptor Study Group]

As with all such cases, this suspicious disappearance was reported to the police. A search of the land around the bird’s last known location on a remote hill took place and the disappearance was discussed with local land managers. No evidence of what had happened to the bird was uncovered.

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations said: “As is the case in virtually every raptor persecution investigation, nobody seemed to know anything and, as is the case with every suspicious satellite tagged raptor disappearance on a grouse moor, spurious alternative theories as to what may have happened to the bird and tag were suggested. However, now we know the truth.

This young eagle was killed illegally. The tag was clearly removed from the bird, its antenna was cut off, and the tag was then wrapped in a piece of lead sheeting, presumably because the perpetrator thought this would stop it transmitting. The package was then cast into the river, never to be seen again. Or so they thought.

This discovery gives unequivocal proof not only of what is happening to these birds, but also the lengths to which the criminals involved in the killing of our raptors will go to dispose of evidence and evade justice. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the vast majority of other birds of prey and their tags that have disappeared on Scotland’s grouse moors have suffered similar fates.”

Satellite-tags are used by biological researchers throughout the world to track the movements of animals and birds, from vultures to elephants, and have a proven high reliability. In the UK, their use on birds is strictly regulated by the British Trust for Ornithology and the Government’s statutory nature conservation agencies, with individual projects and taggers requiring demonstrable training and experience and only then under specific licences.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, a member of the Central Scotland Raptor Study Group and RSPB Scotland’s Head of Species and Land Management, said: “The number of satellite tags fitted to raptors, functioning exactly as expected, only to have stopped suddenly on a grouse moor, is an issue of increasing public concern, as evidenced by the Scottish Government commissioning of a review of the fates of satellite-tagged golden eagles, published three years ago.”

It has long been suspected that tags are routinely destroyed by wildlife criminals in a deliberate attempt to conceal evidence. There is no other reasonable explanation as to why this tag has ended up in the river where it was found, wrapped in metal, and with the harness and antenna cut. For me this incident is doubly distressing as it is a bird that I tagged with a colleague in 2014, and it originates from a nest site in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park where there has been a long history of local community protection from egg collectors.

More disappearances of tagged birds this year, as well as shooting and poisoning cases, destroy any pretence that the grouse shooting industry is able to self-regulate, even during a national pandemic. It is abundantly clear that the only way to stop this culturally ingrained and organised criminality against Scotland’s protected raptors is through robust, and immediate, regulation. We call upon the Scottish Government to prioritise this as their response to the Werritty Review.


RSPB Scotland has also produced a video:

This tag is not one of the ones that RPUK and Chris Packham have fitted as part of our golden eagle tagging project, but the area where this eagle ‘disappeared’ and where the tag was subsequently found in the river is an area where three of our satellite tagged golden eagles have ‘disappeared’ (Adam, Charlie and Tom), probably suffering the same fate as this one. It’s actually an area where at least eight satellite-tagged eagles have ‘vanished’ in recent years, and was identified as a raptor persecution hotspot by the 2017 golden eagle satellite tag review. Strathbraan is circled in orange below:

We’ll be saying a lot more about this later today.

The Scottish Government has been dragging its feet on raptor persecution for years and years and years. We are expecting a response to the Werritty Review (on grouse moor reform) ‘this autumn’ and in light of this evidence, the latest in a long long line of evidence, we expect a meaningful response. If you’d like the First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon) and her Environment Cabinet Secretary (Roseanna Cunningham) to know how much you expect from them, please send POLITE but strongly-worded emails to:


UPDATE 25th September 2020 10.30hrs: RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations Ian Thomson has written a blog about this incident and he puts the discovery of this tag in to a wider context – read here.

UPDATE 30th September 2020: The eagle’s satellite tag found in the river: poetic injustice (here)


Proposed golden eagle reintroduction in Wales: interesting commentary from last night’s event

Further to yesterday’s blog (see here) about the proposed reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales and the two very different approaches being taken by two ‘competing’ organisations (see here), one of our blog readers attended last night’s public consultation event being hosted by Dr Paul O’Donoghue of Wilder Britain.

Many thanks to that blog reader who has provided us with a set of questions he asked and the short but extraordinary answers he says were provided by Paul O’Donoghue, as follows:

Question: On a scale of 1-10 how confident are you that this will take place next year?

Answer: Nine

Question: Why not follow IUCN guidelines and get birds from the nearest population?

Answer: Golden eagles in Scotland are not breeding enough to take any away, the numbers are in decline. IUCN guidelines say that you shouldn’t impede donor populations.

Question: Who are you working with in Norway? Have you entered in to dialogue with DEFRA for an import and export licence?

Answer: No dialogue with DEFRA yet. Vets lined up ready for disease risk assessment. We have a very good environmental lawyer working with us by the name of Susan Shaw.

Question: When did you last talk to Lorcan O’Toole? [Golden Eagle Trust, Ireland]

Answer: End of last year.

Question: Are you still confident in an 80% survival rate, when Ireland only works on around 30%?

Answer: Ireland’s success rate is a lot higher than 30%, I am confident at 80%, I wouldn’t be surprised if they all survived.

Question: Have you completed a Habitats Regulations Assessment?

Answer: Yes.

Question: What assessment are you conducting in respect of ecological damage to protected species?

Answer: That’s part of the Habitats Regulations Assessment.

Question: Golden eagles are not a Schedule 9 species. What licence do you need?

Answer: Will only need a licence to hold the birds in aviary before release.

Question: Why just release ten birds? Any plans to top up? Is it just a test population?

Answer: We might apply to top up if we feel the need. It’s not a trial though.

Question: Why is Snowdonia an ideal habitat? Even better than Scotland?

Answer: Scotland is less productive and barren. There is much more diverse habitat in Snowdonia, forests, mountains, moorlands, lowlands etc.

Question: You said feasibility studies were complete. Aren’t these consultation supposed to be part of those studies?

Answer: We have completed the ecological studies, these consultations are part of the social/economic study.

Question: Why do RSPB, BTO and North Wales Wildlife Trust appear to be distancing themselves from you?

Answer: That is up to them, we have asked them to be involved. We don’t need them anyway.

Question: Why favour golden eagle over white-tailed eagle?

Answer: White-tailed eagles are in conflict with farmers in Scotland and have much more impact on red listed species. If another organisation suggested white-tailed eagle we would strongly object.

Question: What is your estimated budget for this project?

Answer: That is something we are still working on.

Question: How much have you raised so far?

Answer: I can’t say but it is more than enough.

Question: Who are your main donors?

Answer: Not at liberty to say, they want to remain anonymous.

The answers Dr O’Donoghue is reported to have given about his fundraising activities are quite interesting. If he has already raised ‘more than enough’ funds for the project, presumably his ‘sponsor an eagle’ fundraiser on the Wild Britain website’s home page will be removed without further delay:

Although, if, as is reported, he’s ‘still working on’ what the project’s budget might be, how would he know whether he’d raised ‘more than enough’ funding already? It’s all very bizarre.

Our blog reader reported that ‘about twelve people’ attended last night’s public consultation, which doesn’t sound like very many. We’re told that one member of the audience pointed out the low attendance, possibly due to Covid, and suggested that O’Donoghue should consider putting on an online event so more people could attend. O’Donoghue is reported to have agreed with this suggestion and said he would look in to setting up a Zoom meeting.

We’re told that the audience included a few disgruntled farmers and some members of the public who were unhappy that the event wasn’t bi-lingual, with mutterings of ‘colonialism’. Somebody asked how many landowners had agreed to participate in the proposed reintroduction and the answer was ‘two on board at the moment’ but a conviction that more would soon join in and there’d be no shortage of potential release sites.

One member of the audience apparently called him a ‘crackpot’. O’Donoghue is said to have claimed there’d be no Great Bustards in the UK if it wasn’t for him.

A third public consultation event is due to take place in Caernarfon but the date has not yet been released. Hopefully the online event suggested by a participant at last night’s event will also take place.

Many thanks to the blog reader who provided the above information.

You have to feel for the other organisation that’s interested in restoring both eagle species to Wales. The Cardiff University-based Eagle Reintroduction Project Wales has, for the last three years, quietly undertaken scientifically-rigorous feasibility studies for the potential reintroduction of golden and white-tailed eagles to Wales. They’ve already published some of their findings in a peer-reviewed journal, with more to come, and they’ve been developing widespread partnerships, working towards putting forward a well-evidenced and widely endorsed case for a potential reintroduction if their scientific analyses support such a move.

If you’d like to help them please visit their crowdfunder (here), donate if you can or simply spread the word.


Proposed golden eagle reintroduction in Wales: another public meeting & more controversy

Regular blog readers will know there are currently two ‘competing’ organisations working on a potential reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales.

[Young golden eagle, Getty Images]

One of the groups, called the Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project and affiliated with Cardiff University, is taking a well-considered and thoroughly-evidenced approach to evaluate the feasibility of reintroducing golden and white-tailed eagles to Wales. They have an active crowdfunder at the moment to help support their ongoing research (see here)

The other organisation is called Wilder Britain and its sole director, Dr Paul O’Donoghue, appears to be quite good at media soundbites but has been less forthcoming, so far, about the actual details of his grand plan.

Previous blogs that might be informative can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Earlier this month Wilder Britain held the first of several planned public consultation events hosted by Paul O’Donoghue (see here).

The second such event is due to take place this evening:

This evening’s event comes after some unfavourable commentary about the proposed reintroduction in the media and inside the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament.

Last week, Welsh politician Sian Gwenllian raised the issue with Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs (and also the Species Champion for Raptors in Wales).

Their conversation went as follows:

This was then followed up by unfavourable press coverage in The Bangor Aye, which read as follows:

Siân Gwenllian, the Member of the Senedd for the Arfon constituency and Shadow Minister for Plaid Cymru has joined a number of figures to express her concern about a possible reintroduction of eagles to Snowdonia.

Golden eagles have been all but extinct in Wales and England since 1850. Wilder Britain has launched a public consultation following a feasibility study.

In 2019, Cardiff University researchers said Wales was home to “large expanses of potentially suitable eagle habitat” but reintroduction was not likely to happen “for some time”.

Siân Gwenllian MS has said: “There are many reasons to oppose this plan, but the interests of local farmers are undoubtedly a priority.

“I have been in discussions with local farmers, and with the local branch of the FUW, and I share their concerns that these plans could pose an additional danger to local agriculture, an industry which is already facing countless challenges.

“The likely reason that the species disappeared from the area in the first place is insufficient subsistence in the Snowdonia area. This could mean that if reintroduced, local farmers’ lambs would be easy prey for them. That is very worrying. ”

Wilder Britain, the organisation calling for the reintroduction of eagles to Wales, held a public meeting to discuss the plans in Betws-y-Coed in early September.

There is concern that Wilder Britain is interfering with the rigorous research project carried out by the Eagle Reintroduction Wales (ERW) project, led by Cardiff University. That project undertakes careful and detailed research into the environmental and ecological impact of eagle reintroduction.

Siân Gwenllian MS added: “Dr Paul O’Donoghue, director of Wilder Britain, claims that eagles in Snowdonia were culled, but there is ground to believe that their disappearance was due to lack of subsistence for the species.

“This could be a major threat to the area’s wildlife and agricultural stock. We know that eagles can carry the weight of other animals, putting Snowdonia’s biodiversity at risk. ”

Siân Gwenllian raised the issue in a plenary session of the Senedd today with Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for the Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs. Ms Gwenllian asked the minister to ‘state clearly that the Welsh Government will not support these recommendations, and that they need to be put aside as soon as possible.’

Lesley Griffiths MS responded by saying that she appreciated that such proposals were ‘controversial’ and that there were polarised views’, and she noted that all points of view on the issue needed to be considered.

Siân Gwenllian MS said: “It is important that we listen to the voices of farmers who are expressing great concern about this scheme.

“I appreciate RSPB Cymru’s statement that any proposed reintroduction of the species would have to come following thorough research, local consultation, and widespread support from local communities.

“According to my conversations with the FUW, there is reason to believe that that local support does not exist.”


It seems that Sian Gwenllian is not a big fan of any proposed eagle reintroduction as she seems to think that golden eagles ‘would put Snowdonia’s biodiversity at risk‘. It’s probably fair to say, based on that statement alone, that Ms Gwenllian’s comprehension of what biodiversity actually is is quite limited, but that’s not necessarily an unsurmountable problem that couldn’t be addressed by some gentle education.

However, it appears that Ms Gwenllian is using the approach of Wilder Britain as reason enough to dismiss any thought of a reintroduction. That was always the danger of having two conflicting groups taking different approaches, and is what we feared might happen as a result.

Thankfully, Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths seems a lot better informed and has a sensible approach to how a proposed reintroduction will be assessed by the Government. In that sense, the Cardiff University-based Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project looks set to tick all the right boxes in terms of its background research, ecological feasibility studies, partnership development and planned public consultations.

Incidentally, in mid-August an FoI was submitted to the Welsh Government’s statutory nature conservation agency, Natural Resources Wales, to find out what correspondence had been received from Wilder Britain about a proposed eagle reintroduction. NRW’s response is now overdue.


Proposed golden eagle reintroduction to Wales: genuine intent or just a publicity stunt?

Back in February 2019 we blogged about two different organisations who were taking two very different approaches to a possible reintroduction of the golden eagle to Wales (see here and here).

[Young golden eagle, Getty Images]

The most serious effort, in our view, to examine whether this might be feasible and appropriate was/still is being undertaken by a team of researchers at Cardiff University under the auspices of the Eagle Reintroduction Wales (ERW) Project (view their website here). The ERW’s approach has involved several years of carefully conducting a scoping exercise, to properly consider all the factors that need to be addressed before a reintroduction licence would be granted, e.g. biological and environmental considerations, social and political considerations, and comprehensive risk assessments and an exit strategy. The group has also been building partnerships with local stakeholders.

The other organisation is called Wilder Britain (website here), whose sole director is Dr Paul O’Donoghue, who according to Companies House is also a Director of six other companies, some of whom blog readers may already be familiar (Lynx UK Trust Community Interest Company (CIC), Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC, Wildcat Haven CIC, Paul O’Donoghue Consultancy Ltd, Specialist Wildlife Services Ltd, and We Rescue Animals CIC). Some of you may know Dr O’Donoghue’s name as being behind the failed 2018 application to reintroduce Lynx to Kielder Forest (see here) and earlier this year he lost an outrageous defamation claim against Andy Wightman MSP (see here).

In a blaze of publicity and fanfare in February 2019, it was claimed that Wilder Britain’s plans to reintroduce ten golden eagles to Wales were ‘well underway’ and that a licence application would be submitted to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) by July 2019.

However, at that time there was very little detail available about any research that may or may not have been completed to support such an application. We were also interested in any modelling work that would be needed to understand how many young eagles would have to be released to establish a self-sustaining breeding population. Many previous studies on raptor reintroductions have demonstrated that long term success is largely dependent on releasing a sufficient number of birds, which is calculated by considering a wide variety of demographic factors. And that’s assuming that the habitat and prey has been deemed sufficient to support any reintroduction and that illegal persecution isn’t a threat. One thing’s for sure, any viable project is going to need to release significantly more than ten birds, which according to Dr O’Donoghue are being sourced from ‘Europe’ and will all be satellite tracked. We’re talking serious funding requirements here, that are unlikely to be met by Wilder Britain’s requests to ‘sponsor an eagle’ on its website.

Curious to find some answers, in November 2019 we asked NRW, via a freedom of information request, for copies of all correspondence it had had with Dr O’Donoghue/Wilder Britain, including any licence applications. NRW responded by stating it had received no correspondence from Dr O’Donoghue/Wilder Britain relating to a proposed golden eagle reintroduction (see here). Hmm.

Fast forward to August 2020 and amidst another blaze of publicity, which just happened to coincide with the news that a golden eagle that had been living in the wild in Wales for several years had been found dead (here), and up pops Dr O’Donoghue again, this time announcing (here) a public survey and consultation to support a proposal to ‘release five pairs of golden eagles’ in Wales in 2021.

This afternoon, Dr O’Donoghue is hosting the first of several public meetings in Wales to answer questions about the proposal. Should be interesting.

UPDATE 16.25hrs:

Here is a tweet from @WCRCUK who attended this meeting:






Update on parliamentary motion on ‘disappearances of birds of prey over driven grouse moors’

Three weeks ago we reported that Alex Rowley MSP (Scottish Labour) had lodged a parliamentary motion relating to the ‘disappearances of birds of prey over driven grouse moors’ (see here).

This motion was triggered not only by the suspicious disappearance of satellite-tagged golden eagle Tom, who vanished in to thin air during lockdown in May this year, along with his fully-functioning satellite tag, with his last known location being on a driven grouse moor in Strathbraan, a well-known raptor persecution hotspot (see here), but also the suspicious disappearance of seven other satellite-tagged golden eagles in the same area, the disappearance of another satellite-tagged hen harrier on another Scottish driven grouse moor (here), the illegal poisoning of a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle found dead on another Scottish grouse moor (here), and the 43 hen harriers that have either gone missing or have been killed in the UK in the last two years, mostly on or close to driven grouse moors (here).

A quick check today on the progress of this parliamentary motion has revealed it has full cross-party support, with MSPs from all parties signing up:

There are 26 supporters to date, from Scottish Labour, SNP, the Greens, the Lib Dems, an independent, and, surprisingly, the Conservatives. Well done Peter Chapman MSP (Scottish Conservatives, NE Scotland) for being the sole supporter (so far) from this party.

The motion needs four more supporters before it reaches the threshold of 30 MSPs from at least two different political parties to qualify for a Parliamentary debate.

Parliamentary motions are ‘live’ for six weeks before they’re culled (if they haven’t attracted sufficient support) so this one still has about three weeks to run.

If your MSP is not listed, please consider dropping them an email and encourage them to support this motion. If they refuse, it’d be interesting to hear their explanations. NB: Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries are not eligible to support these motions.

If you’re unsure about who your elected representatives are, you can find them here.

Thank you


10 year old boy tells First Minister he’s worried about golden eagles ‘going missing’

Last year, a nine-year-old boy called Freddie Blackman was so upset about the suspicious disappearance of two satellite-tagged golden eagles (Adam & Charlie) that vanished on a grouse moor in Strathbraan (see here) that he, and many others, wrote to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging her and her Government to do more to protect Scotland’s eagles (see here, here, here, here).

Here’s the letter Freddie wrote to Nicola Sturgeon last year:

The First Minister eventually responded to Freddie and wrote him a letter (here) telling him, ‘I believe that the Scottish Government must do everything it can to look after our eagles’ and then going on to fob him off telling him she was waiting for the Werritty review to be delivered.

Fast forward 12 months and Freddie is now a year older, another satellite-tagged golden eagle (Tom – see here) has gone ‘missing’ in suspicious circumstances on a Scottish grouse moor, in the same raptor persecution hotspot as where Adam and Charlie disappeared, and we’re still waiting for the Scottish Government to respond to the Werritty review, which cost taxpayers £86,000 and which has been sitting on Ministers’ desks since November 2019 (nine months ago).

Ten-year-old Freddie has just sent another card to the First Minister:

How will the First Minister respond this time?

How embarrassing must it be to have a nine and now ten-year-old calling you out on your failure to protect one of your country’s most iconic species?

How many more letters will Freddie have to write and how old will he be when the Scottish Government finally takes effective action against those who continue to kill these eagles?


If you’re sick to the back teeth of illegal raptor persecution on driven grouse moors, please consider participating in this quick and easy e-action to send a letter to your local Parliamentary representative (MSP/MP/MS) urging action. Launched just nine days ago by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, over 53,000 people have signed up so far.

This means that over 53,000 pre-written letters complaining about illegal raptor persecution and the environmental damage caused by intensive grouse moor management, are winging their way to politicians of all parties across the UK. If you want your local politician to receive one, Please join in HERE

Thank you



Disappearance of golden eagle Tom prompts Parliamentary motion

Earlier this week we blogged about the suspicious disappearance of Tom, a golden eagle we’d been satellite-tracking since last year with Chris Packham and who vanished in to thin air, along with his fully-functioning satellite tag, with his last known location being on a driven grouse moor in Strathbraan, a well-known raptor persecution hotspot (see here).

[Golden eagle Tom at approx 8 weeks old having his satellite tag fitted in 2019 under expert licence. Photo Raptor Persecution UK]

We produced a video about Tom’s suspicious disappearance and this, along with the RPUK blog on his disappearance, received good media coverage both online and in the printed media throughout the week, even though a journalist at The Times simply cut and pasted the text from the RPUK blog, regurgitated it in an article and attributed this to ‘a spokesman from RPUK‘. Ha!

Here’s the video for those who may have missed it:

And now Tom’s disappearance has prompted a Parliamentary motion, lodged by Labour MSP Alex Rowley as follows:

It’s not just Tom’s disappearance that has led to this. As you can see, Alex also mentions the suspicious disappearance of seven other satellite-tagged golden eagles in the same area, the disappearance of another satellite-tagged hen harrier on another Scottish driven grouse moor (here), the illegal poisoning of a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle found dead on another Scottish grouse moor (here), and the 43 hen harriers that have either gone missing or have been killed in the UK in the last two years (here).

He’s done his homework.

For a Parliamentary Motion to be considered for debate, at least 30 MSPs from at least two different political parties need to support it. So far, Alex’s motion has attracted the support of 17 MSPs, representing Labour, SNP, Greens, Liberal Democrats and one independent.

If your MSP’s name isn’t on the list as a supporter, please email them and prompt them to sign up. If they refuse, ask them why. Put them on the spot and most importantly of all, let them know that this issue matters to you.

If you don’t know who your MSP is you can find out here

If you want to do more, and if you’re sick to the back teeth of illegal raptor persecution on driven grouse moors, please consider participating in this quick and easy e-action to send a letter to your local Parliamentary representative (MSP/MP/MS) urging action. Launched last Saturday by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, over 41,000 people have signed up so far.

This means that over 41,000 pre-written letters complaining about illegal raptor persecution and the environmental damage caused by intensive grouse moor management, are winging their way to politicians of all parties across the UK. If you want your local politician to receive one, Please join in HERE

Thank you

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