Raptor poisoning incidents doubled in 2013

UpGraphThe Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW Scotland) has published the latest ‘official’ maps showing the distribution of reported raptor persecution incidents in Scotland during 2013.

Remember 2013? That was the government’s much heralded Year of Natural Scotland.

How disgraceful then, to see that reported incidents of raptor poisoning in 2013 doubled from the previous year. The victims this time around included a golden eagle, a red kite and four buzzards. And these were just the ones that were discovered – how many went undiscovered?

Not only did the reported poisoning incidents double, but other methods of illegal persecution were also reported, including disturbance, nest destruction, shooting and trapping, and these incidents numbered nearly three times the number of reported poisoning incidents.

It is clear, once again, that despite all the claims to the contrary, the illegal persecution of birds of prey in Scotland is still taking place with impunity. This has been vividly illustrated by the unfolding news from Ross-shire this week that at least 11 raptors have been found dead, including at least 8 red kites, all strongly suspected to be the victims of illegal poisoning. We fully expect this figure to rise…

This year, for the first time, the maps are now not just restricted to showing reported poisoning incidents; also included are the other types of persecution. This approach has to be applauded, especially as there is a real concern that the raptor killers are changing tactics in an attempt to show that the game-shooting industry is cleaning up its act (i.e. if they can keep poisoning figures low, they can point to this as an indication that persecution is dropping because they know that poisoning is the only method that is regularly mapped and monitored). Not any more, so well done to the Environment Minister for ensuring the other methods are also now ‘officially’ mapped and monitored.

However, the new and improved maps are still not showing the full picture.

For example, the recorded incidents shown on the new maps are limited to those where a dead or dying raptor has also been discovered:

The maps DO NOT show incidents where other birds/animals have been found poisoned with banned substances that have been categorised by SASA as ‘abuse’. Why not?

The maps DO NOT show incidents where an illegally-set trap has been found without an injured or dead raptor in/on it. Why not?

The maps DO NOT show the locations where satellite-tracked raptors have ‘mysteriously disappeared’ without trace. Why not?

But most significantly of all, the maps DO NOT show incidents where poisoned baits have been discovered, and have been categorised by SASA as ‘abuse’, unless a poisoned raptor was also found at the scene. Why not?

In our view, this is the most serious of all the omissions. The Scottish Government explains this away by saying that if there isn’t a dead/dying raptor at the scene then the discovery of poisoned baits can’t be classified as ‘raptor persecution’. Eh? Everybody knows that these poisons are routinely used to target birds of prey. To deliberately leave them off these poisoning maps is astonishing. In whose interest is it to exclude these incidents?

A good example of this sort of incident came last year when a massive stash of pre-prepared poisoned baits was found inside two game bags in woodland next to a grouse moor on Leadhills estate. Leadhills has a long and sorry history of poisoned baits and poisoned raptors having been found there, dating back several decades. A Leadhills gamekeeper was convicted in 2010 for er, laying out a poisoned bait on the moor. There were 36 baits in total in the 2013 stash; chopped up into bite-size pieces and sprinkled with Carbofuran. What on earth does the Government think those baits were going to be used for if not for poisoning raptors?

We think this particular stash of pre-prepared poisoned baits is the largest ever discovered in Scotland. The Leadhills baits are not included in the latest maps. Why? Because no poisoned raptors were found at the scene. Probably because the police failed to conduct any level of search when they turned up, in marked vehicles, to collect the baits.

If we, the BBC and Project Raptor had not reported on that incident, nobody would be any the wiser to it today. The police failed to issue a press release and now we find that the incident has been excluded from the ‘official’ poisoning maps. There’s now no doubt at all that the incident will also be excluded from the Scottish Government’s ‘official’ raptor persecution report that they’ll publish later this year.

‘Discovery of a massive stash of poisoned baits on a sporting estate? Where? When? Nope, we can’t find it in the ‘official’ statistics, you must be mistaken, it can’t have happened’.

Compare this approach with that used by the government/police to report on drug seizures. They regularly report on the recovery of big stashes of heroin, whether the heroin has actually found its way onto the street or not. They don’t say, ‘Oh, we can’t include that in our official stats because we didn’t find a junkie laying next to the stash”, do they? No, it all gets recorded as part of their official drug crimes statistics. What’s so different about the discovery of big stashes of banned poisons that are known to be used to illegally target birds of prey?

So, all in all then, situation normal in Scotland. Reported poisoning incidents have doubled from the previous year, other methods of killing raptors are being utilised with disturbing regularity, the game-shooting industry is still trying to spin the story into something positive (Doug McAdam is quoted in the Scotsman article as saying: ‘Good progress has been made on reducing illegal poisoning incidents’!!), the Scottish Government is still trying to spin the story into something positive (by comparing the 2013 figures with  figures from 2009 [the highest reported poisoning figures in 20 years] rather than focusing on the doubling of reported incidents from 2012 to 2013) and the ‘official’ statistics are still not showing the full scale of the problem.

See you all same place, same time, next year, when, judging by the recent Ross-shire news, once again we’ll be reporting that raptor poisoning incidents have increased over the last year. The only surprise will be by how much.

To view the ‘official’ maps on the PAW Scotland website see here.

Article in the Scotsman ‘Birds of prey spared poison – to be stamped to death’ – see here.

Article on BBC website ‘Number of birds of prey poisoned in Scotland doubles’ – see here.

Article on STV news ‘Rise in number of birds of prey illegally poisoned ‘very worrying” – see here.

6 thoughts on “Raptor poisoning incidents doubled in 2013”

  1. The official PAW maps are misleading. A Buzzard was shot in Ayrshire in 2013, yet this incident has not managed to make it onto the full map.

    I’m not able to delve further at the moment, but I will revisit this map later on this evening to see if there are any other errors.

  2. There is certainly something not quite right with the Leadhills incident, some ‘important’ people were obviously, it seems, being protected.
    Birds of Prey crimes are, also obviously, not going to stop until Driven Grouse Moors, at least, have been driven to extinction.

    1. Because they haven’t been ‘officially’ recording other types of persecution for the last five years (RSPB has, but the game-shooting industry refuses to accept those figures, naturally – far too embarrassing).

      The plan is for Scot Gov (well, PAW Scotland) to keep on ‘officially’ recording these other non-poisoning incidents so that in time they can show a five-year summary/trend etc.

      1. Who cares what the game-shooting industry accepts, I am sick to the teeth of everyone (I don’t include you RPS) trying to appease them. It is well past the time to ban the bloody slaughter that takes place in our uplands.

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