Posts Tagged ‘red kite

18
Dec
19

Gamekeepers caught with banned poisons should receive mandatory jail sentence

Yesterday the Scottish Rural Affairs & Environment Minister, Mairi Gougeon, gave evidence to the cross-party Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) committee which is currently considering Stage 1 of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill.

We’ll come back to the wider evidence session in another blog because there were some interesting and important discussions but one point raised deserves an immediate reaction:

Possession of banned poisons.

Here’s the mini transcript:

ECCLR Committee Member Rachael Hamilton MSP: I will go back to the categorisation of wildlife offences and the different tiers of the penalty system. We heard evidence that perhaps possession of illegal pesticides should be categorised as a tier 1 offence, because they are currently illegal anyway. Do you have any comments on that point and do you have any plans to have an amnesty on illegal pesticides prior to the bill being passed? People should not possess illegal pesticides anyway, so using them in connection with animal crimes should attract the highest and severest category of penalty.

Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon: That has been the feeling behind that issue. As you said, possession of such pesticides is already illegal and there are offences in place to deal with that individual issue separately. Using such pesticides as part of another offence would attract the higher penalty. As they are already illegal and there are offences attached to them, using them in relation to any other offences could well attract severe penalties.

In relation to your amnesty point, I would be happy to consider looking at the matter.

Scottish Government Wildlife Management Team leader Leia Fitzgerald: Just to clarify, there was a previous amnesty, which was quite successful and resulted in a lot of pesticides being handed in. We could speak to stakeholders about whether that is something that could be done again. We would hope that we got all of what we needed after the last amnesty, but we can look at the matter.

Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon: I will happily get back to the committee and let you know how we get on with that.

ENDS

Is the Scottish Government seriously considering yet another amnesty for banned poisons, which would be the third amnesty in the 15 years since it became an offence to even possess these deadly toxins, let alone use them? (The Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005).

The first amnesty took place in 2011 (see here), six years after the ban was first introduced. The second amnesty came four years later in 2015 (see here).

Since then poisoning crimes have certainly dropped in Scotland, probably thanks to the increase in satellite-tagged raptors, whose tags lead researchers to the poisoned corpses that would otherwise remain undetected, and also due to the introduction of vicarious liability legislation in 2012 which made it possible for landowners to be prosecuted for raptor persecution crimes committed by their gamekeeper employees. However, these poisoning crimes haven’t been totally eradicated and we’re still reading reports about illegally-poisoned birds (and some dogs) that have died after ingesting banned poisons in Scotland including some that were killed this year, and some even inside the Cairngorms National Park (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here).

[An illegally-poisoned buzzard found on the boundary of a sporting estate in Perthshire. Contributed photo]

How many more chances is the Scottish Government planning on giving to these criminals? How many more get-out-of-jail-free cards will be dished out?

Why can’t the Scottish Government, 15 years on, implement a zero tolerance policy on this vile and primitive crime that not only risks the lives of wildlife and domestic animals but puts humans at risk as well? In the most recent criminal case, a Scottish gamekeeper was found with two cartons containing the banned poison Carbofuran. He was carrying one of these containers in his bum bag – presumably he wasn’t just taking the container out for company every day – and yet 180 schoolchildren were put at risk when they attended the grouse shooting estate on an officially-sanctioned school trip. Can you believe that? The gamekeeper was convicted for possession (along with a litany of other wildlife offences) and received a community payback order. No fine, no jail sentence, no deterrent whatsoever. Compare and contrast to how illegal poisoners are dealt with in Spain (see here, here and here).

The criminals who persist with such reckless activity in Scotland deserve a mandatory custodial sentence – there can be no more excuses, no more discussion and certainly no more amnesties.

Enough.

03
Dec
19

Poisoned red kite in Nidderdale: two local businesses put up a reward

Following the news last week that yet another red kite had been found poisoned in Nidderdale (see here), the Northern England Raptor Forum (NERF) has published a statement.

It’s well worth a read, here.

[A poisoned red kite]

A selected quote from the NERF statement:

‘The population of Pateley Bridge and surrounding area is less than 3,000 people. Whoever put the poisoned bait out in the open countryside and killed the Red Kite is most likely to live locally, shop locally, use the local pub and may have children or grand-children in the local school. In short if you live in the Pateley Bridge area the person indiscriminately putting poisoned baits out in your countryside, putting your life, the life of your pets and local wildlife at risk is your neighbour.

In addition to the physical threats posed by the use of dangerous poison there is also the reputational damage caused to this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and local businesses. This potential reputational damage was recognised by Pateley Bridge businessman Keith Tordoff in 2017 when he and a fellow businessman, jointly offered a reward for information following the unlawful killing of another Red Kite. On that occasion the bird was shot near Greenhow‘.

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

A few days ago RPUK was contacted by a local businessman from Pateley Bridge who has once again put up a £1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspected poisoner(s). The businessman prefers to stay anonymous at this point for fear of retribution but he told us that another local businessman has also agreed to put up a £1,000 reward if the information received leads to a conviction. There may well be other members of the local community stepping forward. The businessmen have been in contact with the RSPB and North Yorkshire Police to facilitate the reward process.

Ongoing concern about the level of wildlife crime in Nidderdale has been raised by residents and visitors alike for a number of years, particularly on the extent of illegal raptor persecution and such is the strength of feeling that the Nidderdale AONB Partnership has now included a specific objective on raptor conservation in its AONB Management Plan. As part of this work, an evidence report was published in September 2019 which placed grouse moor management firmly in the frame.

Incidentally, those of you who read last week’s report on this latest poisoned red kite will know that there was an inexplicable eight-month delay between the discovery of the poisoned red kite and a police appeal for information. It was the latest in a number of cases (as yet unpublished) in North Yorkshire that have caused raised eyebrows, not least because of the previous exemplary efforts (e.g. here) of the North Yorkshire Police Rural Task Force, a team which includes some of the UK’s most dedicated and knowledgeable police officers tackling raptor persecution crimes through Operation Owl.

Last weekend at the annual Wildlife Crime Enforcers Conference we were able to have some full and frank discussions about recent events, including the delayed appeal for information about this poisoned red kite, with some senior members of North Yorkshire Police. The response was impressive, the explanations plausible (it would be inappropriate to provide detail here), the admission of mistakes made admirable, and the determination and commitment to target the offenders was unquestionable.

We look forward to being able to report some more success stories from the UK’s worst raptor persecution hotspot.

28
Nov
19

Yet another red kite found illegally poisoned in Nidderdale AONB

Press release from RSPB (28 November 2019)

Red Kite poisoned in Nidderdale

North Yorkshire Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after a protected red kite was found poisoned in an area of North Yorkshire with the worst record for the illegal killing of birds of prey in England.

A member of the public found the bird dead under a tree in Blazefield, just outside Pateley Bridge, Nidderdale in March 2019. North Yorkshire Police submitted the bird to be tested for poison, and results show the bird tested positive for the insecticide bendiocarb. This is one of the top five most commonly abused substances involved in raptor poisoning cases. It is also extremely toxic to people and pets.

Killing a bird of prey is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Anyone found responsible for this bird’s death faces an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in jail. The police are now appealing for information. 

[A dead red kite]

[Blazefield, sandwiched between some of the most notorious wildlife-killing grouse moors in the UK]

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “Poison baits deliberately placed out in the open, where anyone could find them, puts people, pets and wildlife in danger. Based on government toxicology data, from 2009 to 2018 the RSPB recorded an astonishing 369 incidents of the illegal use of pesticides to kill or target birds of prey. Bendiocarb, a very toxic insecticide, is something we come across again and again being used for this purpose.”

According to data collated by the RSPB, the Nidderdale area – which is dominated by extensive driven grouse shooting – is the worst black spot for raptor persecution crimes in England, clocking up more incidents in the last seven years than anywhere else.

In September 2019, the Nidderdale AONB published their ‘bird of prey evidence report’ which highlighted the impact of illegal persecution upon the protected landscape’s birds of prey. The report stated that ‘The spread of red kites into the AONB is being restricted by illegal persecution’.

In August 2019, North Yorkshire Police appealed for information after a red kite was found shot and also poisoned in Wath, near Harrogate, within the Nidderdale AONB. This bird contained two pieces of shot, one of which was from an older injury which it had survived, indicating it had been shot on two occasions. But it was also found to contain a cocktail of highly toxic pesticides, and this was deemed the ultimate cause of death.

And in April 2019, a satellite-tagged hen harrier named River was found dead on Nidderdale’s Swinton Estate, following a search by North Yorkshire Police and RSPB Investigations. She too had been illegally shot.

Howard Jones added: “Nidderdale has become a death zone for birds of prey. Our message to the community is this: If you enjoy spending time in the countryside, please be vigilant. Report anything suspicious. If you have information about someone killing birds of prey, please speak out. This is happening on your doorstep, to your wildlife. Let’s make it known that this barbaric, relentless destruction of wildlife is not something North Yorkshire will tolerate.

“Finally, if you are being instructed to kill birds of prey, please do not break the law on someone else’s behalf. Call our confidential hotline on 0300 999 0101.”

ENDS

Eight months for this appeal for information to emerge? That’s pathetic. Let’s hope there was at least a local appeal for information – a spokesperson from North Yorkshire Police is quoted in this article in today’s Yorkshire Post saying “Despite extensive investigations……” so perhaps this included warnings to the local community that some criminal psychopath had been laying out deadly poisons in the area. Also interesting to note that the Yorkshire Post article says the banned poison Isophenphos was also detected in the kite’s carcass.

Regular readers of this blog will be only too aware of Nidderdale AONB’s reputation as a massive wildlife crime scene. We’ve blogged about it many, many times including the poisoning and shooting of red kiteshen harriersbuzzardsmarsh harriers on Nidderdale grouse moors (as reported by the AONB partnership in September 2019). We’ve also seen how the local community is turning against the criminals in their midst which is hardly surprising when according to the Chair of the Nidderdale AONB these crimes are “starting to have a damaging effect on tourism businesses”. 

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Here’s a map we produced a while ago showing the boundary of the Nidderdale AONB (yellow line), illegally killed red kites (red dots), missing satellite-tagged hen harriers (orange stars), shot hen harrier Bowland Betty (red star), shot hen harrier River (red triangle, which we now know should be closer to the red star on the Swinton Estate).

UPDATE 3 December 2019: Poisoned red kite in Nidderdale – two local businesses put up a reward (here)

08
Nov
19

Raptor persecution in Northern Ireland: ten year review and new strategies to tackle these crimes

Press release from the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAW NI):

Birds of prey to be safeguarded by new technology

Satellite tracking devices are to be fitted onto birds of prey and nesting site surveillance installed, in the latest fight against wildlife crime.

‘Hawk-Eyes’, an advanced technology project, is being launched by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAW NI), alongside their ‘10 Years of Persecution’ Report.

The report reveals that from 2009-18, there were a total of 72 incidents of confirmed raptor persecution in Northern Ireland, resulting in the death or injury of 66 birds of prey and the destruction of two nesting sites.

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Wildlife Officer Dr Jon Lees said buzzards and red kites are amongst the most common victims of persecution: “Sadly, a small proportion of our population still seem to think it’s ok to destroy these magnificent birds at the expense of the environment and the rest of the community.

“Raptors such as buzzards, red kites, peregrine falcons and Sparrowhawks, have been illegally targeted right across Northern Ireland to such an extent some areas are at risk of losing their natural top predators,” explained Dr Lees.

The methods these criminals use, such as poisoned bait, are often highly dangerous, putting livestock, pets and people at risk. These offenders care little for people’s safety. We rely heavily on the vigilance of the public to report these crimes and any evidence to the police or Crimestoppers,” Dr Lees added.

The “Hawk-Eyes” project, is funded and supported by the Department of Justice, – Assets Recovery Community Scheme (ARCS) and run through PAW NI, which brings together government Departments, PSNI and other enforcement agencies, environmental organisations, animal welfare groups and country sports associations with the common goal of combating wildlife crime through publicity, education and campaigning.

Some of the birds’ tracking information will be publicly available on the project website at http://wildlifecrimeni-hawkeyes.com, which will allow people to help protect these special birds by reporting such crimes.

PAW NI encourages people across Northern Ireland to be vigilant. If anyone sees or knows of any wildlife crime, report it to the PSNI by calling 101 or, in an emergency, 999. Crime can be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

ENDS

The ten year review report (2009-2018) can be downloaded here: PAW NI Raptor Persecution Report 2009 – 2018

The use of technology (nest cameras and satellite tags) in the Hawk Eyes project is very interesting, especially as it’s being funded by the Department of Justice’s Assets Recovery Community Scheme, where proceeds of crimes are distributed to help community projects. It would be great to see this approach repeated in England, Scotland and Wales.

Of most interest to us is that these tags are being deployed primarily to aid the detection of wildlife crime. Typically, up until now the main reason for deploying satellite tags has been as part of an ecological research project – the subsequent detection of wildlife crime hotspots (through the discovery of poisoned/shot/trapped sat tagged birds or the suspicious disappearance of tagged birds) has been a by-product of that research and not its primary aim. This is a very clear change of approach from the PAW NI and its also very pleasing to see that the police are key partners in it. Good stuff.

Will the use of satellite tag technology help to identify the criminals as well as the hotspots? Quite possibly. It doesn’t work in England, Scotland or Wales where there are large game shooting estates and where evidence can be quickly destroyed with relative ease (no witnesses around and thousands of acres in which to hide corpses/tags) and where multiple gamekeepers can hide in the crowd (a prosecution isn’t possible unless an individual suspect is identified) but the situation in Northern Ireland is quite different.

Raptor killing in Northern Ireland isn’t such an ‘organised crime’ as it is in the rest of the UK because there are very few large game shooting estates. It seems to be more localised and opportunistic in Northern Ireland, so the perpetrators aren’t so clued up on how to avoid detection. The deterrent effect of simply knowing that these birds might be tagged may also be significant in Northern Ireland because the raptor killers there won’t have wealthy employers prepared to fork out thousands of pounds for legal defence as they do on the game shooting estates in England and Scotland. The risk of getting caught and being afraid of the consequences might just do the trick in Northern Ireland.

Well done and good luck to the PAW NI team – a lot of people will be watching this project with interest.

25
Sep
19

Red kite illegally poisoned in North Yorkshire

Toxicology testing (by WIIS – Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme) has confirmed that a dead red kite that was found ‘recently’ near Thixendale, North Yorkshire was illegally poisoned with the banned pesticide Carbofuran, according to local raptor rehabilitator Jean Thorpe.

We haven’t been able to find any further information about this crime.

[The poisoned red kite. Photo from Jean Thorpe]

 

 

18
Sep
19

Damning report highlights illegal killing of birds of prey on Nidderdale AONB grouse moors

The Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is an absolute hell hole for many birds of prey.

[Photo: Ruth Tingay]

This is no secret. The illegal killing of raptors on the grouse moors of this AONB has been documented and reported on for years, by the RSPB and by this blog. The area is notorious amongst raptor conservationists for the number of hen harriers that ‘disappear’ in suspicious circumstances (that’s a euphemism for ‘they have been killed’) and the number of red kite corpses that have been found either shot or poisoned, or sometimes both.

It’s a gaping black hole on the breeding distribution maps of many raptor species and despite this being a so-called protected area, in the words of Mark Avery it’s actually a massive wildlife crime scene.

Here’s a map we produced a while ago showing the boundary of the Nidderdale AONB (yellow line), illegally killed red kites (red dots), missing satellite-tagged hen harriers (orange stars), shot hen harrier Bowland Betty (red star), shot hen harrier River (red triangle, which we now know should be closer to the red star on the Swinton Estate).

Nidderdale AONB lies directly east of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, another raptor persecution hell hole. Last year, the Park Authority responded to public concerns about the killing of raptors on grouse moors by producing an evidence report on the scale of the problem. As we wrote at the time, ‘This report, which is very well written and referenced, is a significant move. There’s no attempt to deny or hide or obfuscate the facts, as we’ve seen so often before. It is a clear description of what’s been happening in this National Park and places grouse moor management at the centre of it all. It’s well worth a read‘.

Fast forward a year and now the Nidderdale AONB has done exactly the same:

You can download the report here: BoP-in-NiddAONB-Evidence-Report-FINAL-Sept-2019

It’s another well-written, fully-referenced report and there’s no hint of denial or obfuscation. It is particularly pleasing to see the use of RSPB persecution data, not just the inaccurate, out of date, watered-down RPPDG data that some pro-shooting organisations rely upon to minimise the perceived scale of the problem. Once again, the report’s conclusion is that grouse moor management is in the frame.

Well done to the author(s) of this report and well done to the Nidderdale AONB for having the balls to publish it.

08
Aug
19

Police warning as red kite confirmed poisoned in Nidderdale AONB

Last October (2018) a dead red kite had been found near Wath, in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a notorious raptor persecution black spot.

An x-ray confirmed the kite had been shot and North Yorkshire Police launched an investigation. We blogged about the case here.

It seems that wasn’t the end of the story. Although the x-ray revealed two pieces of shot, these were not considered to have caused the kite’s death so it was sent off for post-mortem and toxicology examination.

The results are now back (10 months on!!) and nobody will be surprised to learn that, like so many other red kites in Nidderdale, this one had not only been shot on two separate occasions, but it had also been poisoned with a concoction of banned pesticides.

North Yorkshire Police has now issued a warning and an appeal for information as follows:

POLICE PESTICIDE WARNING AFTER DEATH OF RED KITE (8 August 2019)

Police have issued a warning about illegal pesticides, after a post-mortem concluded a red kite died as a result of pesticide abuse.

At the end of October 2018 a red kite was found dead in Nidderdale. The finder in this case was the landowner, who was concerned that criminal activity may have taken place on his land.

North Yorkshire Police arranged for the bird to be x-rayed, and this showed there were two pieces of shot in the bird. However, it was not possible to say whether these had caused fatal injuries. Police released details of the incident, and appealed for information from the public.

Officers have now completed their enquiries. The dead bird was subjected to a post mortem, which concluded that the injury caused by one piece of shot was old and had healed. The damage caused by the second piece was recent but was not a fatal injury.

The bird was then submitted to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme, which is administered by Natural England. It was subjected to toxicological tests which found several poisons in the bird. The largest quantity of poison was a substance called bendiocarb, a pesticide which is licenced [sic] for use in the UK. Smaller amounts of two other pesticides, isofenphos and carbofuran, which are both illegal in the UK, were also present. The report concluded that the kite had died as a result of the abuse of several pesticides.

At this time, officers have not received any information to help them identify any suspects. Although the investigation has now concluded, anyone with any information about this incident is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police, quoting reference 12180199938.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “The test results suggest that someone not only has access to two illegal poisons, but is also placing them, along with a legal pesticide, into the environment so that a wild bird has been able to consume them. In addition to being poisoned, the bird had also been shot at least twice during its life.”

Red kites have been successfully re-introduced to Yorkshire, having been extinct as a breeding bird in England, and they are now a familiar sight to people in Nidderdale. All birds are protected by law and it is a crime to intentionally kill, injure, or take any wild bird. If anybody has information about persecution of birds of prey, whether by poisoning or shooting, please call North Yorkshire Police on 101.

Anyone misusing pesticides may also be committing a variety of offences. If you come across an object which you believe may be contaminated with a pesticide or other poisons, please do not handle it. Report the situation immediately to the police giving accurate details of location and why you suspect involvement of a poison.

ENDS

There’s an RSPB blog about this case here.

Interesting to note the suggestion that Bendiocarb is a pesticide that is licensed for use in the UK. Not in Scotland it isn’t – it’s one of eight pesticides that are considered so highly toxic that it’s an offence to even have them in your possession, let alone use them (the others are Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium phosphide, Carbofuran, Mevinphos, Sodium cyanide and Strychnine).

When an opportunity arose to have these substances banned in England, the then Wildlife Minister Richard Benyon (owner of grouse moor & pheasant shoot) refused to support such a move (see here).

So, here’s yet another red kite victim to add to all the other red kite victims that have been found either poisoned or shot on or close to grouse moors in the Nidderdale AONB, along with all those missing satellite-tagged hen harriers and two shot hen harriers.

RPUK map showing the boundary of the Nidderdale AONB (yellow line), illegally killed red kites (red dots), missing satellite-tagged hen harriers (orange stars), shot hen harrier Bowland Betty (red star), shot hen harrier River (red triangle).

 




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