Posts Tagged ‘peregrine

21
Mar
19

Lying in wait: gamekeepers trying to lure raptors to within shotgun range in Peak District National Park?

Some of you may remember the footage of an armed man, believed to be a gamekeeper, lying in wait close to a decoy hen harrier on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park, back in 2016 (see here).

The footage was so disturbing, and the public reaction so strong, it prompted the National Trust (the landowner) to pull the shooting lease early and replace the shooting tenant with someone else (see here). Incidentally, that new tenant hosted a successful hen harrier breeding attempt last year (see here), even though some of the offspring didn’t survive for very long after leaving the safety of this moor (e.g. Arthur, see here and Octavia, see here).

We’ve also blogged before about what was believed to be the use of a tethered live eagle owl as a decoy on a grouse moor in the Lammermuirs (see here), although the suspected gamekeeper took off pretty sharpish once he realised he’d been spotted.

Well, it seems this method of using to decoys to lure in birds of prey to within close range of a shotgun is more prevalent than we’d thought.

Today the RSPB Investigations Team has published a video of several armed men (identified as gamekeepers by the RSPB) over a period of months spending hours and hours and hours of their time sitting in specially-dug holes in close proximity to a plastic peregrine and a plastic hawk, believed to have been used as decoys to attract other birds of prey. The location? A grouse moor in the Peak District National Park.

Hmm, it’s really no surprise that the Peak District National Park was identified in the recent scientific analysis of hen harrier sat tag data as one of the grouse moor areas where hen harriers were most likely ‘disappear’ in suspicious circumstances (see here).

The RSPB has also written a blog about this footage, and similar evidence of decoy use that has been recorded on other grouse moors in the north of England. Read the eye-opening blog here.

Fantastic investigative work from the RSPB to get such close and clear footage and there’s a strong chance that these gamekeepers won’t be using those particular decoy sites again in the near future!

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09
Jan
19

Serial international raptor egg smuggler faces lengthy custodial sentence

The name Jeffrey Lendrum will be familiar to many blog readers. He’s the criminal who was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison in 2010 when he was caught trying to smuggle peregrine eggs (stuffed inside socks taped to his stomach) out of Birmingham airport enroute to the Middle East (see here). Lendrum had stolen the eggs from nest sites in Wales and investigators believe he had collected them to order for an Arab falconer in Dubai.

[Jeffrey Lendrum at court in 2010, photo by Express Papers]

Prior to that 2010 conviction, Lendrum had been found guilty of similar offences involving stolen falcon eggs from nests in Zimbabwe (1984) and Canada (2002).

In 2016, Lendrum was sentenced to 4.5 years in jail in Brazil after being caught in possession of rare falcon eggs at Sao Paulo airport, enroute from Chile to Dubai (see here). However, in 2017 it was reported (here) that he was appealing his sentence and the Brazilian authorities released him on bail pending that appeal. Lendrum subsequently disappeared.

In June 2018 Lendrum was caught at Heathrow airport wearing a body belt that contained 19 eggs of various raptor species from South Africa (here). He initially pleaded not guilty which led to his trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court yesterday.

Lendrum eventually pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial to four charges of Evasion of a Restriction contrary to the Customs and Excise Management Act. He was remanded in custody and sentencing is expected today (Wednesday).

Coverage of this story can be found in the Daily Telegraph (here) and Daily Mail (here).

We’re interested in the legislation under which Lendrum was charged and convicted. Clearly not any wildlife-specific legislation and also clearly quite serious as his trial took place in the Crown Court rather than a lower Magistrates Court. This looks like a creative approach to tackling someone who commits serial wildlife crimes – good work by the UK Border Force and the National Crime Agency.

The judge reportedly warned Lendrum yesterday that he faced a lengthy jail term. Although according to this fascinating article written by Joshua Hammer, who has been researching Lendrum for a proposed biography, Lendrum is suffering from cancer so his apparent ill health may well be used in mitigation to influence (lessen) the severity of his sentence. We’ll see.

UPDATE 10 January 2018: Raptor smuggler Jeffrey Lendrum receives 3 year custodial sentence (here)

31
Oct
18

Parliamentary questions on poisoned peregrine in Pentland Hills

Earlier this month we blogged about the discovery of a dead peregrine in the Pentland Hills Regional Park just south of Edinburgh (see here). The dead adult male, part of a breeding pair, had been found in May and toxicology results confirmed he had been killed with a highly toxic banned poison, capable of killing a human.

[Photo of poisoned peregrine found dead next to footpath]

There was widespread concern that Police Scotland hadn’t bothered to mention this illegal poisoning incident for many months (not until prompted to do so by us). Given the toxicity of the posion and the frequency with which the public use the footpath where the poisoned bird was found, this silence was unacceptable.

The illegal killing of the peregrine is just the latest in a growing list of wildlife crime incidents uncovered close to grouse moors in the Pentland Hills. In addition to the poisoned peregrine and the subsequent disappearance of its mate and chicks in the nest, other incidents include a raven that was found shot dead on its nest, a merlin’s nest that had been shot out, and a satellite-tagged golden eagle (Fred) who had ‘disappeared‘ in highly suspicious circumstances.

It could be argued that there is political gain to be had from keeping quiet, especially at a time when the Scottish Government-supported South Scotland Golden Eagle Project is underway and project partners SNH are keen to pretend that raptor persecution “is no longer an issue” in the area, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

In addition to the incidents in the Pentland Hills, elsewhere in south Scotland there’s Raeshaw Estate, currently operating under a General Licence restriction and an Individual Licence restriction, due to evidence of alleged ongoing raptor persecution (here); there’s a forthcoming prosecution of a gamekeeper in the Borders for a long list of alleged wildlife crime (here); there’s the land managed for driven grouse shooting in South Lanarkshire (close to the golden eagle translocation area) where over 50 confirmed reported incidents of dead raptors and poisoned baits have been recorded since 2003, including a shot golden eagle in 2012 (it didn’t survive, here), the reported shooting of a short-eared owl in 2017 (here), the reported shooting of a hen harrier in 2017 (here), and the reported shooting of a buzzard in 2018 (here); and then there’s been at least four raptor poisonings in south Scotland this year alone (here), five if you include the Pentlands peregrine.

Fortunately not all MSPs are content to remain silent on this issue. Alison Johnstone MSP (Scottish Greens) spoke out earlier this month when news broke of the poisoned peregrine, stating that she would be asking questions of the Scottish Government’s failure to protect birds of prey (see here). She’s as good as her word. Alison has since lodged several Parliamentary questions as follows:

S5W-19574: To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the reported recent cases of illegal raptor persecution, what action it is taking to address wildlife crime in the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

S5W-19575: To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the risk to (a) the public and (b) wildlife of the use of banned poisons in the countryside, and what action it is taking to address this issue.

S5W-19576: To ask the Scottish Government, in light of it attracting an estimated 600,000 visitors annually, what its response is to reports that the public was not advised about the presence of a highly toxic banned poison in the Pentland Hills Regional Park

Expected answer date for all three questions is 7 November 2018.

Well done, Alison, and thank you.

14
Oct
18

Songwriter Holly Lamar pleads guilty to possessing wild peregrine in Derbyshire

US grammy nominee Holly Lamar (real name Mary Holladay Lamar), 51, pleaded guilty at Chesterfield Magistrates Court on Friday to two offences relating to the illegal possession of a wild peregrine falcon.

[Lamar arriving at Chesterfield Magistrates Court, photo by BBC]

Derbyshire Police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit raided her home in Ashover Road, Old Tupton, Chesterfield last December where they found a juvenile peregrine wearing an identification leg ring that, according to official records, should have been worn by a captive adult peregrine.

[Officers photographing the leg ring on the juvenile peregrine, photo by Derbyshire Police]

Officers found the body of an adult peregrine in the freezer whose leg had been cleanly cut off. It’s head was also detatched and apparently this bird had died in a fight with a female peregrine:

Lamar was interviewed and told officers the juvenile peregrine (believed to be a wild bird) had come from someone else and she was just looking after it.

In court, District Judge Leo Pyle said: “You are a long-standing and accomplished keeper of birds of prey. You know a juvenile Peregrine Falcon from an adult bird. How you acquired that bird I don’t know.

Anyone who flouts the regulations should expect the suitable punishment. Had you not pleaded guilty today I would have no doubt sentenced you immediately to imprisonment“.

Lamar was given an 18 weeks’ sentence for each offence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 120 hours’ unpaid community work. The peregrine was confiscated, she was banned from keeping any Schedule 4 birds for five years and ordered to pay £1,020 costs plus a £115 surcharge.

The court heard that Lamar had lived in Derbyshire for two and a half years but intends to move back to the US imminently. Her defence lawyer said she’d recently been the victim of a £600k fraud and lost everything, currently living on benefits. She denied she had ever been involved selling birds to the Middle East.

Lamar’s company, ‘Raptor Rapture Ltd’ was established in Lincolnshire in 2015 but according to records at Companies House it was dissolved via compulsory strike-off in 2016.

The BBC News Website ran a story on Friday’s court hearing (here).

10
Oct
18

Armed criminals running amok in the Pentland Hills nr Edinburgh

The northern edge of the Pentland Hills is a familiar sight to residents of Edinburgh and can be seen from the Scottish Parliament building.

[View of the Pentlands from Edinburgh, photo by Ruth Tingay]

Designated as “a place for the peaceful enjoyment of the countryside“, the Pentland Hills Regional Park hosts over 600,000 visitors per year.

We suspect many of those visitors looking for a bit of ‘peaceful enjoyment’ would be outraged to discover that this area is actually a wildlife crime hotspot and the armed criminals involved are running amok without being brought to justice.

In the last two years, a raven was found shot dead on its nest, a merlin’s nest was shot out, a golden eagle ‘disappeared‘ in highly suspicious circumstances and a peregrine has been poisoned with a deadly toxin so powerful that it could kill a human.

These are blatant wildlife crimes and nobody has been charged, let alone prosecuted or convicted. That’s not a criticism of the police – collecting sufficient evidence to charge an individual is almost impossible without the help of witnesses and/or camera footage – but it is a criticism of the Scottish Government’s continuing failure to deal with this issue.

It’s interesting to note that the majority of these crimes occured very close to land managed for driven grouse shooting. The tell-tale rectangular strips of burned heather on this map are quite striking:

Large areas of the Pentland Hills Regional Park are privately owned estates and are managed for grouse shooting and farming. The wildlife crimes have been committed across several estate boundaries and we understand that at least until recently, some estates ‘shared’ gamekeepers.

It is not unusual for the police to be unable to identify the individual(s) committing crimes on driven grouse moors – and again, that’s not a criticism of the police, although withholding information from the public for months on end, especially when there is a risk to public safety, certainly doesn’t help. In fact escaping prosecution was such a common problem that in 2013 the then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP introduced another sanction – he instructed Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to withdraw the use of the General Licence on shooting estates where there was sufficient evidence to indicate a raptor persecution crime but insufficient evidence to identify the individual culprit(s).

This power has been available to SNH since 1 January 2014 but so far only four restrictions have been imposed: one on Raeshaw Estate/Corsehope Estate in the Scottish Borders; one on Burnfoot Estate/Wester Cringate Estate in Stirlingshire; one on Edradynate Estate in Perthshire; and one on an unnamed individual who had worked on the Tillypronie Estate in Aberdeenshire. We’ve blogged a lot about this sanction and particularly SNH’s failure to impose General Licence restrictions in at least nine other cases where raptor persecution has been detected. When asked about these failures, SNH responded that it “wasn’t in the public interest” to explain (see here).

We’d like to know whether SNH is considering withdrawing the use of the General Licence on any of the shooting/farming estates in the Pentland Hills where raptor persecution crimes have been confirmed. And if not, why not?

Without sanctions being imposed, and importantly, being seen to be imposed, the armed criminals, whoever they may be, running around the Pentland Hills laying poisoned baits and shooting out nests and killing protected birds are going to think they’re untouchable and the wildlife-loving general public is going to know that the Scottish Government has lost all control over this disgraceful issue, happening right on its doorstep.

Ps. Great to see the BBC News website is running with the peregrine poisoning news today (see here).

UPDATE 11 Oct 2018: Merlin nest shot out in the Pentland Hills (here)

10
Oct
18

Lothian MSP Alison Johnstone speaks out on Pentlands poisoned peregrine

Following yesterday’s news that a peregrine has been found poisoned in the Pentland Hills (here), Alison Johnstone MSP (Scottish Greens, Lothian) has issued a statement:

Peregrine falcon found dead in the Pentland Hills

The Raptor Persecution UK blog has revealed that a peregrine falcon was found dead in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh earlier this year.

I am deeply saddened that yet another bird of prey has been illegally killed in the Pentland hills, just a few miles from the city of Edinburgh. Scotland’s birds of prey are supposedly protected, yet persecution is rife and rarely met with justice.

That a protected species could be killed using a deadly poison in a regional park that is visited by over half a million people every year is shocking. I will be asking questions of the Scottish Government and Police Scotland to get to the bottom of this failure to protect our wildlife and the public. But it also raises a wider disregard for the law amongst certain parts of the land management community that the Scottish Government is failing to counter effectively. We urgently need to see wildlife crime taken seriously and backed up with sufficient resources and tougher penalties.

ENDS

Bravo, Alison!

We’re still waiting for a statement from the Scottish Government.

What does it take? Does the peregrine’s poisoned corpse need to be dumped on the First Minister’s desk? Obviously that would be a recklessly dangerous move – one touch from Nicola Sturgeon and her skin could absorb the highly toxic poison and kill her.

Just as one touch of that dead peregrine laying by the public footpath from a passing walker, a child or a pet dog could have proved fatal.

UPDATE 10 October 2018: BBC News website running with the peregrine poisoning story (here)

UPDATE 10 October 2018: Armed criminals running amok in Pentland Hills nr Edinburgh (here)

09
Oct
18

Peregrine found poisoned in Pentlands, not far from Fred’s last known location

We were recently informed that a peregrine had been found dead in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh way back in May this year (five months ago). We were also advised that toxicology results had shown it had been poisoned with a banned poison.

[RPUK map: Pentland Hills, just south of the Edinburgh City ByPass]

Given the location, a few miles from where golden eagle Fred had ‘disappeared’ in highly suspicious circumstances in January (see here), we were obviously very interested in this case.

[RPUK map showing golden eagle Fred’s last known fix in the Pentlands in January 2018 and the location of the poisoned peregrine found in May 2018]

We hadn’t seen any media from Police Scotland about this poisoned peregrine – no appeals for information, no warnings to the public about the use of a banned poison in a regional park popular with the visiting public, nothing.

So last week we started asking questions and this morning Police Scotland advised us that the following statement had just been issued:

Police Scotland Official Statement

Police Scotland received a report of a dead peregrine falcon on Thursday 25 May 2018 in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh.

The dead bird was recovered from the Green Cleuch area of the hills in Midlothian.

Detective Constable Andrew Loughlin said: “After extensive inquiries were carried out in collaboration with partner organisations, the bird was found to have been poisoned.

Our investigation has concluded that this appears to have been deliberate as we do not believe that under the circumstances the poison could have been used legitimately.

The investigation has now concluded and no further Police action is being taken at this time.

We take wildlife crime like this very seriously and would urge anyone who has information about crime involving birds of prey to contact Police Scotland on 101 or make a report anonymously to the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

ENDS

[Aerial photo of Green Cleugh, at the edge of the grouse moor at Black Hill – photo from Eastside Cottages website]

According to local Raptor Study Group fieldworkers, this peregrine was an adult male and was raising a brood of chicks in the area in May 2018. Three days after his body was found, the adult female and all the chicks had ‘disappeared’.

This case raises a number of questions and we’ll be returning to some of those shortly.

For now though, why the hell wasn’t this case publicised? If we hadn’t chased it up, would it ever have come to light?

This was a banned poison. We don’t know which one because that’s a secret apparently, but we do know it’s one of eight poisons listed on The Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005 which are so dangerous that it’s an offence to even possess the stuff, let alone use it.

And to use it in the Pentland Hills Regional Park – an area that attracts approximately 600,000 visitors a year, including families walking with children and pets. Why weren’t those visitors warned that a banned poison had been used that could have potentially fatal consequences if even touched?

Here’s the poisoned peregrine, right next to the public footpath:

Who knew about this case and who made the decision to keep it quiet?

Was it a politically-motivated decision? We know there is huge sensitivity about illegal raptor persecution in south Scotland just now, with the start of the Government-backed translocation of golden eagles in to the region this year and SNH pretending that “persecution is not an issue” [in south Scotland] (see here).

It clearly bloody is an issue and we’ll be asking several politicians to look in to the handling of this case.

More on this, and other questions, shortly.

UPDATE 10 Oct 2018: Lothian MSP Alison Johnstone speaks out on Pentlands poisoned peregrine (here)

UPDATE 10 Oct 2018: BBC News has picked up on this blog  – Police criticised over bird of prey poisoning in Pentland Hills (here)

UPDATE 10 Oct 2018: Armed criminals running amok in the Pentland Hills nr Edinburgh (here)

UPDATE 11 Oct 2018: Merlin nest shot out in the Pentland Hills (here)




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