Posts Tagged ‘poisoning

09
Mar
19

‘Eagles are being slaughtered as part of serious organised crime’

Revive, the coalition for grouse moor reform held its first ever fringe event at a party political conference yesterday, at the Scottish Labour conference in Dundee.

The event was chaired by Claudia Beamish MSP and three speakers from Revive joined the panel (Dr Ruth Tingay of RPUK, Max Wiszniewski, Revive Campaign Manager, and Dr Craig Dalzell, Head of Policy & Research at Common Weal) with another coalition member (Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland) in the audience.

[Photo by Louise Robertson]

Each speaker gave a ten minute presentation followed by approx 20 minutes of questions from the floor.

It was brilliant to see a number of journalists in the audience, resulting in some good coverage in the papers today.

The Herald focused on the illegal persecution of golden eagles and hen harriers on or close to driven grouse moors and journalist Alistair Grant got the message loud and clear that, in our opinion, the extent of this persecution on many driven grouse moors is such that it amounts to serious organised crime. [Definition by the National Crime Agency: ‘Serious crime planned, coordinated and conducted by people working together on a contuining basis. Their motivation is often, but not always, financial gain‘]

Here’s the text from The Herald article:

GOLDEN eagles and other protected birds of prey are being illegally slaughtered in what amounts to “serious organised crime”, a leading expert has said.

Dr Ruth Tingay of Raptor Persecution UK said birds are being killed on or near grouse moors across Scotland before the evidence is then removed to avoid prosecution.

She spoke out during a fringe meeting at the Scottish Labour conference in Dundee.

Claudia Beamish MSP, the party’s environment spokeswoman, said it backed strict new rules for estate owners – including a total ban on the use of lead shot and the large-scale cull of mountain hares.

She said: “In order for grouse moors to continue, if indeed they do, there needs to be very robust licensing.”

Labour delegates heard grouse moors cover almost a fifth of Scotland, with estates handed more than £300,000 a year in public subsidies.

Revive, a coalition of organisations calling for change, insisted estates should be stripped of this cash as part of a crackdown aimed at encouraging radical land reform.

It said the intensive land management associated with driven grouse shooting causes environmental damage.

Meanwhile, there is evidence scores of birds have been illegally killed on or near estates, it said.

Dr Tingay, a leading raptor ecologist, said: “My argument is that what we are seeing here – not just with golden eagles but with other birds of prey, particularly hen harriers, which are also persecuted on driven grouse moors – is serious organised crime.

If the Government accepted this, we would see a lot more resources coming in to deal with this issue.”

She said some estimates suggest 50 eagles a year are disappearing.

Revive is made up of Raptor Persecution UK, Friends of the Earth Scotland, animal charity Onekind, the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland and think tank Common Weal.

Craig Dalzell, head of policy and research at Common Weal, said estates should be opened up to other uses.

He said grouse moors in Scotland had an annual economic impact of £32 million and were responsible for around 2,640 jobs.

In comparison, forestry boasts an annual economic impact of £973m and creates 26,000 jobs, he said.

ENDS

The Press & Journal also covered this fringe event and journalist Tom Peterkin headlined with this:

Here’s the text of the P&J article:

Labour has said there should be robust licencing of grouse shooting amid claims that illegal wildlife killing on sporting estates amounted to “serious organised crime”.

The call was made by Shadow Environment Secretary Claudia Beamish at a Labour conference fringe meeting where she cast doubt on the survival of the pastime in the long-term.

The meeting was hosted by Revive, an organisation campaigning for the reform of the country sport and whose agenda includes stripping grouse moor landowners of public subsidies.

Speaking at the meeting, Ms Beamish said it would be “valid” for a licencing system to take into account issues raised by Revive.

Ms Beamish said: “I think that in order for grouse moors to continue – if indeed they do – there needs to be very robust licencing and robust monitoring.”

Ms Beamish made her remarks after campaigners claimed grouse moors only supported 3,000 jobs on an average salary of £11,500 despite accounting for almost one fifth of Scottish land.

Ruth Tiingay of Raptor Persecution UK, drew attention to golden eagles killed on Scottish moors, arguing it was “serious organised crime”.

Max Wiszniewski of Revive said his organisation was “not going for a ban” on grouse shooting “however understandable that would be”.

Rather Revive’s focus was to reform it as much as possible, including an end to government subsidies, heather burning limits, a lead ammunition ban, a ban on snares and more action against wildlife crime.

He said: “The question may come about if the industry can’t survive after the necessary reforms, it possibly has to reflect on itself.”

ENDS

This was a very worthwhile event. Revive signed up more supporters to its pledge for grouse moor reform (you can sign online here if you haven’t already done so), it was an opportunity to interact with a number of politicians who were keen to learn more about the Revive campaign and the media was interested in what we had to say.

Well done to Max (Revive Campaign Manager) for organising this event and many thanks to Claudia Beamish MSP for her interest and support.

Revive will be at other party political conferences later this year.

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20
Feb
19

Buzzard shot and poisoned in East Yorkshire: police renew appeal for info

Press release from Humberside Police (20 Feb 2019)

Poisoned buzzard East Yorkshire, renewed appeal for information

On the 2nd October 2018 Humberside Police appealed for information regarding the discovery of a dead Common Buzzard, which x-rays showed as having three shotgun pellets within its body [Ed: see RPUK blog here]. These were old injuries but the bird also had more recent injuries to its head, which at that time were suspected to have possibly come about by having been confined within a cage trap.

A detailed examination of the body and its food content has now revealed that the Buzzard had ingested food containing the highly toxic pesticide aldicarb. This substance has been banned for use and possession for over 10 years. It is one of several highly toxic pesticides which are abused by adding them to a bait like a dead rabbit to kill scavengers such as crows and foxes. Carrion eating birds such as Red Kites and Buzzards often become victims.

Several birds of prey including Red Kites and Buzzards have been recorded as being killed by the use of aldicarb in previous years at various locations within the East Riding of Yorkshire including near Market Weighton and Pocklington.

The bird involved in this incident during 2018 was discovered between Millington and Huggate in the East Riding of Yorkshire which is very popular with walkers. The exact circumstances of the bird’s death and how exactly it sustained all its injuries are unclear which is often the case with these offences. What is clear is that it had been shot previously and then ingested a banned toxic substance at a later date. Offences such as this are crimes under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which are punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.

Wildlife and Rural Crime lead Chief Inspector Paul Butler said: ”Enquiries have so far failed to identify who is responsible for this particular crime but are ongoing. The continued use of these chemicals is highly irresponsible and there is no excuse for it whatsoever. Anyone undertaking any form of pest or predator control should ensure they operate within the law and best practice guidance. Those disregarding it for whatever reason should be aware that it is not acceptable and that my Wildlife Crime Team officers are actively seeking them out”.

Anyone with information about who is using these chemicals or involved in the persecution of birds of prey by any means are encouraged to come forward with this information which will be treated with the utmost confidentiality. Raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority which Humberside Police takes very seriously and works alongside other agencies to investigate offences.

If you think you have found a poisoned victim or bait do not touch them, cover them over if possible, warn others to keep away, note the exact location, take photos and report it to the police straight away.

Guy Shorrock, Senior Investigations Officer at the RSPB, stated: “There have been a number of incidents in the East Riding area involving the poisoning of buzzards by this highly toxic banned pesticide. We are grateful for police enquires into this latest case and would urge anyone with information to contact them. You can also contact the RSPB in strictest confidence on 0300 999 0101 if you have any information about birds of prey being illegally killed in your area”.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation should call Humberside Police on the non-emergency number 101 quoting investigation number 16/99978/18 which is being dealt with by WCO PC 1529 Day.

ENDS

The RSPB has also written a blog about this case, here

19
Feb
19

Heap of poisoned ravens found on Welsh/English border

Press release from RSPB (19 February 2019)

Ravens found poisoned on farmland

West Mercia Police undertook an investigation after ten dead ravens, a dead crow and parts of a dead lamb were found close together on farmland near Vron Woods, Beguildy on the Wales/Shropshire border.

The birds were reported to the RSPB and collected by Natural England in April 2018, who sent the birds to be tested. Government toxicology tests on five of the ravens, the crow and the lamb confirmed the presence of Diazinon. This is a veterinary product, used legally for sheep dip, but which is known to have been used illegally to poison wildlife. It is believed the lamb carcass was deliberately laced with Diazinon for this purpose.

[Poisoned raven, photo by Ed Blane, Natural England]

[Photo of the ten ravens and one crow bagged up for removal, by Ed Blane, Natural England]

Birds of prey and ravens are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. Police interviewed a local person under caution but, due to lack of evidence, the case could go no further.

Ravens are a recovering species which breed mainly in Wales, Scotland, and Western and Northern England.

Jenny Shelton from RSPB Investigations said: “Shropshire has a history of Diazinon abuse for the purpose of illegally targeting birds of prey and other protected species. We are grateful to Natural England and the police for investigating this matter, which poses a serious threat to wildlife and people. Ravens are incredibly intelligent creatures, able solve problems and form memories similar to our own. These once-scarce birds are gradually starting to recover after persistent persecution at the hands of humans, so it’s disturbing to hear of incidents like this still taking place.

This area is also a stronghold for red kites – another bird making a comeback after disappearing entirely from England due to persecution. Poison baits pose a danger to these birds too.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call West Mercia Police on 101.

The RSPB is urging people to be vigilant and report dead birds of prey or ravens this spring – a key time of year for illegal poisoning to take place. If you find a dead bird of prey or raven beside a carcass that could be a poison bait, contact the government hotline on 0800 321600. Alternatively contact the police on 101 or RSPB investigations on 01767 680551.

Note: These investigations take time, as do the toxicology tests, and we realise there has been some delay in publicising this. But we feel this is an important story to tell.

ENDS

04
Dec
18

Buzzard found poisoned near Mauchline, south Scotland

From Cumnock Chronicle (29 Nov 2018)

POISONED BIRD OF PREY SPARKS POLICE WARNING

Residents in Mauchline are being warned to be on the look out after a bird of prey was found poisoned.

A member of the public discovered the buzzard, still alive but in a distressed state on land on the outskirts of the town on November 2.

Fortunately, the bird was found quickly and survived. A toxicology report has now confirmed the buzzard ingested poison.

[Buzzard, photographer unknown]

Police Scotland are concerned that this illegal activity is happening in the area and are appealing for any information that may lead to detecting the person responsible for this deliberate act.

PC Sam Briggs, Wildlife Crime Officer, said, “It is a serious concern that someone has targeted wildlife in this illegal and indiscriminate manner. If anything unusual is discovered I would advise not to touch it, but instead cover it if you can and contact the police, giving them the exact location.”

Police are working alongside partner agencies Scottish SPCA, Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture and Agricultural Officers to fully investigate the matter. Anyone with information on the illegal use of pesticides or who may has seen something suspicious, particularly in the last month or so, can call 101 and quote No: SP-20181120-2194 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

ENDS

This is the sixth raptor poisoning in south Scotland this year (that we’re aware of) including four red kites and buzzards that were poisoned in Dumfries & Galloway between Jan-May this year (see here) and a poisoned peregrine found in the Pentland Hills in May this year (see here).

But there’s no need to worry. SNH is “reassured that raptor persecution is not an issue” in this region.

30
Nov
18

Yet another red kite shot & killed in North Yorkshire’s Nidderdale AONB

North Yorkshire Police are appealing for information after the discovery of yet another shot & killed red kite in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The latest in a long line of victims, this red kite was found dead on 25th October 2018 near to Wath.

[X-ray of the shot red kite showing two shotgun pellets. Image from North Yorkshire Police]

[RPUK map showing location of Wath in the Nidderdale AONB]

[RPUK map showing Wath sandwiched between two areas of grouse moor]

Nidderdale AONB is a notorious red kite persecution hotspot with a long history of illegally shot and poisoned red kites (e.g. see here), so much so that last year the Chair of the Nidderdale AONB’s Joint Advisory Committee issued a public statement condemning these killings and warning that it was having a damaging effect on local tourism businesses (see here).

[RPUK map showing the locations of illegally shot or poisoned red kites in the Nidderdale AONB since 2007]

North Yorkshire Police have issued an appeal for information about the latest red kite shooting, and also an appeal for information about a shot buzzard that was found near Selby earlier this month (we blogged about this buzzard a couple of weeks ago, see here).

Appealing for information, Sergeant Kevin Kelly from North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce said “It’s with much frustration, that I again make another witness appeal regarding two rare birds of prey, that we are privileged to have in our skies, being mindlessly and illegally shot.

If you have any information that will assist the investigation, please come forward and contact police via 101 and pass the information to the Force Control Room. Please quote reference 12180210290 for the buzzard investigation and 12180199938 for the red kite investigation.

We have two extremely experienced wildlife crime officers leading these investigations and they will follow up on any tangible enquiries.  I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the members of public for taking the responsibility to report these matters.

The police press statement includes a quote from the Nidderdale Moorland Group: “We have been made aware of this incident and we are fully supporting the Police investigation. An estate owner and moorland group member found the bird and handed it into the police. The Nidderdale Moorland Group is dismayed by this incident and is committed to helping eradicate wildlife crime. We would ask anyone with information to contact the police“.

Of course, it’s not just red kites that are illegally killed in this grouse moor dominated area of North Yorkshire. Nidderdale AONB and the neighbouring eastern side of the Yorkshire Dales National Park also just happens to be an area where satellite-tagged hen harriers ‘disappear’ without trace in highly suspicious circumstances.

[RPUK map showing Nidderdale AONB and the eastern side of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Red dot = Wath. Small red stars = locations of illegally shot or posioned red kites since 2007. Orange stars = satellite-tagged hen harriers that have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in recent years (data from Natural England). Large red star = hen harrier Bowland Betty who was found shot dead on a grouse moor in 2012]

There has never been a successful prosecution for any of these crimes.

For how much longer do you think DEFRA ministers Michael Gove MP and Dr Therese Coffey MP will continue to be wilfully blind to this so-bloody-obvious serious organised crime?

For how much longer do you think genuine conservation organisations will sit on ‘partnership’ groups with representatives of the grouse shooting industry and pretend that everyone’s working together to eradicate these crimes, when there are zero consequences for the criminals?

[A dead red kite, photo by Marc Ruddock]

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.

23
Oct
18

Werritty Review: evidence of raptor persecution on some grouse moors ‘compelling & shocking’

The Scottish Government-commissioned review of grouse moor management continues, with the Review Group, chaired by Professor Alan Werritty, taking evidence from a variety of individuals and organisations.

For new blog readers, this review was ordered in May 2017 by Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham after the publication of another review, ‘Analyses of the fates of satellite tracked golden eagles in Scotland‘, which showed clear evidence of deliberate and sustained illegal raptor persecution in some areas managed intensively for driven grouse shooting.

The Werritty Review is due to report next year.

[Golden eagle ‘Fearnan‘, found poisoned on an Angus Glens grouse moor. Nobody was ever prosecuted for killing this eagle. In fact nobody has ever been successfully prosecuted for killing a golden eagle in Scotland. Photo by RSPB]

A number of general updates about the Review Group’s activities have been published by Professor Werritty and we were especially pleased to read his comments about the evidence presented to the group on illegal raptor persecution. It’s not very detailed but there’s little ambiguity in his words:

“Whilst we noted that many raptor species in Britain have recovered in terms of their post-war population sizes and distributions (with some strikingly successful reintroduction/reinforcement conservation programmes for sea eagles, red kite and osprey) the evidence linking raptor persecution to some areas managed as grouse moors appears both compelling and shocking”.

Professor Werritty’s full report on that meeting, which also included evidence on legal predator control and mountain hare culls, can be read here.

There have been further evidence sessions, and also a ‘consultation’, of sorts, that took place over the summer. We’ll be blogging about that ‘consultation’ separately.




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