Published on Friday an annual RSPB Scotland report confirmed that 2009 marked the highest number of raptor poisoning incidents for 2 decades. “The Illegal Killing of Birds of Prey in Scotland in 2009” indicates that human persecution continues to have a serious impact on the populations of some of the country’s most vulnerable species.
Last year, 21 buzzards, 4 red kites, 2 golden eagles and 1 white-tailed eagle, the latter gifted to Scotland from Norway as part of a reintroduction programme, were among the victims in 46 poisoning cases confirmed by Scottish Government testing.
Illegal killing, through shooting, nest destruction or the use of spring traps, were also confirmed in nine incidents. As many raptors are long-lived and have slow reproduction rates the killing of these species, particularly adult breeding birds, has dire consequences for their populations as a whole. This illegal persecution is affecting the conservation status of raptors such as hen harriers, golden eagles and red kites.
The vast majority of poisoning incidents were associated with shooting estates and in particular grouse moors. Predictably, various pro-shooting bodies have attempted to discredit the RSPB Scotland figures and fudge the issue. Notably, the landowners’ organisation, the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA) said the figures were misleading.
A spokesman said: “The official government report on the illegal poisoning of birds of prey for 2009, published in March 2010, shows the level has stayed the same for the last three years with the exception of 2008 when there were 16 incidents. There is ample legislation in existence to deal with this problem and we support the full weight of the law being brought to bear on those using illegal poisons.”
As these crimes are mainly committed in extremely remote areas and discovered by hill walkers and similar outdoor enthusiasts stumbling upon dead birds, it must be remembered that these “confirmed” cases must represent only a fraction of the true number of raptors illegally killed each year.
The increase in these incidents proves beyond reasonable doubt that the perpetrators of these crimes have little fear of the Scottish judiciary system. Perhaps if the penalties for killing our birds of prey were more of a deterrent we would see this disgraceful trend reverse.
Press and Journal report. http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/1838869
BBC News Report. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-10730222
Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland discusses the report on Radio 4’s Today http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8847000/8847745.stm