Following on from the good news in the Irish Republic (see previous post), the news from Northern Ireland puts us firmly back in reality. A peregrine falcon found injured with gunshot wounds to its wing has had to be euthanised by a vet due to the extent of its injuries.
The bird was found by a member of the public in County Down and police have now launched an investigation, warning that those responsible will face court action.
A Northern Ireland Assembly member, Jim Wells, who is also a founder member of the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, said there had been a number of targetted attacks on peregrines in recent months, with a further two incidents reported earlier this autumn. Jim blamed what he described as ‘rogue elements’ in the pigeon fanciers/pigeon racing community for attacks on peregrines, although he thought this most recent incident was likely to have been a case of mistaken or accidental shooting by wildfowlers.
Four years ago, Jim’s group said they believed a ‘hit man’ had been hired by racing pigeon enthusiasts to shoot peregrines in Northern Ireland and said as many as 30 peregrines had been shot.
New regulations came into force in the Irish Republic yesterday, finally banning the use of all poisons for pest control, apart from those used for rats and mice.
This has been a long time coming, and full credit should be given to The Golden Eagle Trust, who have long campaigned for this ban as they try to re-introduce the golden eagle, white-tailed eagle and red kite to their former ranges across the country.
Whilst the ban will not stop poisoning incidents (look at the continued number of poisoning incidents in Scotland and England where the ban has been in force for several years), it does send a clear message from the Irish government that they wish to address the issue of illegal raptor persecution. Kudos to them for taking this important step.
At least 12 re-introduced raptors have been killed by poison in Ireland this year alone, including golden eagles, sea eagles and red kites. Both the Scottish and Norwegian governments, who licence the capture of eagles in their countries for release in Ireland, have expressed grave concern at the poisonings, and failure to tackle the problem could result in the governments withdrawing their co-operation. This is quite a laughable position for the Scottish government to take, given their complete inability to effectively address raptor persecution in this country. So far, at least. They do have a chance to make significant improvements with the forthcoming WaNE bill, but the bill is still only in Stage 1 of the legislation process so there’s a long way to go yet.
A side-benefit of the new Irish legislation may be in reducing the amount of illegal poison that arrives in Scotland each year, believed to be smuggled in from Ireland where, prior to the new legislation, poison could be bought legally. Clearly it will take some time for all the poison currently in circulation in Ireland to be disposed of, but the long-term view is optimistic.
A new study suggests that the hen harrier is being almost entirely eradicated from UK grouse moors by systematic persecution.
The report, soon-to-be-published by Scottish Natural Heritage and authored by the UK’s leading harrier scientist, Professor Stephen Redpath, estimated that between 2003-07 there should have been 499 breeding hen harrier pairs on the 3,696km2 of grouse moors across Britain which were being “driven”, or actively used for shooting, in those years. A UK-wide survey in 2008 then found only five breeding pairs had survived – a 1% success rate.
In the same news article, and following on from our last blog entry, confirmation is given that a fourth golden eagle has been found poisoned in the Scottish Highlands this year, making 2010 the worst year for golden eagle poisoning in the last two decades.
Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish Environment Minister, said the cluster of persecution cases added further weight to calls for tougher legal powers on bird of prey persecution in Scotland.
The sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed that within the latest SASA poisoning report (see below) there is a case listed that refers to a white-tailed sea eagle and a golden eagle.
Scroll down to the bottom of page 8 of the report. Incident Ref # 10123. Dated June 2010. In the Highland region, Carbofuran is reported as the cause of death for one sea eagle and one golden eagle. The incident is reported as an ongoing police investigation. Click here for details: SASA poisoning positive results 2010
Hmm, interesting. Were the deaths of these two eagles in June 2010 reported in the press? I didn’t see anything. Why wasn’t it reported? If asked, the authorities will probably say that they wanted to collect evidence without first alerting the eagle killers that the dead eagles had been discovered. That’s fair enough. But what about now, several months on? Why should these types of incident go unreported in the press? What’s so different about wildlife crime to any other type of crime that DOES get reported? It wouldn’t be so bad if the figures for the successful prosecution of wildlife crime offenders were good. But have we seen any successful prosecutions for eagle persecution in Scotland in recent years (infact, ever)? No, we haven’t.
So, do we have yet another incident of eagle poisoning in Scotland this year, and if so, where was it and what is being done to bring the killers to justice? What’s being hidden here?
If we want to give the eagle killers a reason to continue what they’re doing, we are handing them the perfect opportunity on a plate. By having news black outs, they know they can carry on poisoning to their heart’s content because no-one will be drawing it to the public’s attention. Genius.
Given the deafening silence on the progress of the Skibo case (see blog report 12 May 2010, where it was reported that three golden eagles, one sparrowhawk and one buzzard had been found on the Skibo Estate in north Scotland), we’ve done some digging around.
We have discovered that the three golden eagles and one sparrowhawk had all been killed by eating poisoned baits, according to scientific analysis undertaken by government scientists. Their results conclude that two of the golden eagles, plus one sparrowhawk were killed by the banned pesticide Carbofuran. They state the third golden eagle was killed by the banned pesticide Aldicarb. Click here for the SASA report detailing these incidents: SASA poisoning positive results 2010
Given the confirmation that these raptors that were found dead on Skibo Estate in May 2010 had been killed by illegal poisons, it is worrying that there has been no formal notification of any charges brought against anybody for these crimes.
Does this mean that, along with every other single case of eagle persecution in this country, the eagle killer(s) in the Skibo case will be getting away with it?
It is perhaps timely that the WaNE bill is currently being reviewed by the Scottish parliament. Measures proposed in that bill will, if implemented, help to stop these criminals getting away with murdering our iconic birds of prey. For example, if the concept of vicarious liability is accepted, then the Estate Owner/Manager will take full legal responsibility for the actions of their staff.
Right now, nobody takes responsibility and we’re all sick of reading these news stories about yet another eagle/kite/buzzard/peregrine/goshawk/osprey/sparrowhawk/tawny owl/hen harrier/kestrel being persecuted.
A £1,000 reward has been offered by the RSPB and Sussex Police for information that leads to the conviction of the person who shot a young osprey in Sussex. The shooting comes one month after a similar incident in Caithness, Scotland (see blog posts 15th & 18th September 2010) . In both cases, the young ospreys were found alive but died later from their injuries.
The latest osprey to die was born in Sweden earlier this summer and was migrating through the UK on its long journey south towards Africa. It was one of three chicks that hatched in a National Park and had been tagged by biologists from the Swedish Bird Ringing Centre.