One week on from the publication of the Hen Harrier Conservation Framework, leaked by investigative journalist Rob Edwards on 16 January 2011, here are the published responses from the shooting lobby and from those with a statutory duty to protect this species of high conservation concern:
Scottish Gamekeeper’s Association – silence
Scottish Rural Properties & Business Association (SRPBA) – silence
Scottish Estates Business Group (SEBG) – silence
Scotland’s Moorland Forum – silence
Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) – silence
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) – silence
Partnership Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAWS) – silence
National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) – silence
Interesting. Perhaps they’re all hoping that if they keep quiet, everyone will forget about the damning evidence presented in the report? It is, after all, only the 5th scientific study published since 1997 to demonstrate the indisputable link between hen harrier persecution and heather moorland that’s managed for red grouse shooting. Here’s a quick summary for anyone who missed the latest scientific facts:
- The potential national Hen Harrier population for Scotland is estimated to be within the range 1505 – 1790 pairs.
- The most recent national survey of Hen Harriers in Scotland (2004) was estimated to include 633 pairs.
- This means that 872 – 1,157 harrier pairs (1,744 – 2,314 individuals) are missing.
- The areas from where these birds are missing are areas managed as grouse moors.
- Illegal persecution of hen harriers is particularly prevalent in five areas, where the majority of breeding attempts fail. These five areas are: Central Highlands, Cairngorm Massif, Northeast Glens, Western Southern Uplands and Inner Solway, and Border Hills.
- At a national scale, the hen harrier in Scotland is not in favourable conservation status, largely due to illegal persecution. Ditto the English hen harrier population.
So, up to 2,314 hen harriers are missing in Scotland, and no-one has anything to say about it? Think about that number. It’s not 23, it’s not even 213 – it is two thousand, three hundred and fourteen birds. This is wholesale destruction on a massive scale! Are we to believe that “just a few rogues” are responsible?
How much more scientific evidence is required before we see the effective enforcement of our wildlife legislation? How can those people who own and manage the sporting estates still be getting away with this level of illegal activity? Why is the Environment Minister still set against the licensing of sporting estates, when it is blindingly obvious that they are unable to self-regulate?
In light of the contents of the leaked report, it is to be hoped that the Scottish Government’s Rural Affairs & Environment Committee will once again push for an amendment to the WANE Bill for estate licensing. Stage 2 of the Bill was completed on Wednesday 19 January and there was no mention of the Hen Harrier Framework during that meeting, probably because the RAE Committee hadn’t had time to read the report in full. Stage 3 begins in several weeks and by that time the Committee and the Environment Minister should be fully conversant with the extent of illegal raptor persecution on Scottish grouse moors.
UPDATE: 28 January 2011. SRPBA denies extent of persecution (yawn)
The SRPBA has written a letter of response to The Sunday Herald, dated 16 January 2011. I’m not sure if it was actually published by The Herald, but here it is as a PDF – SRPBA response to killing fields article 16 Jan 2011
UPDATE: 19 February 2011. See our blog entry on 19 Feb 2011 for an update on this story.