Poisoned baits found on Leadhills Estate: ‘case closed’

One year ago, almost to the day, a significant haul of pre-prepared poisoned baits (36 in total) was discovered in two game bags that were hidden in woodland next to a grouse moor on Leadhills Estate. The 36 chopped up pieces of meat had been liberally sprinkled with the deadly banned poison, Carbofuran.

We blogged about this discovery in June 2013 (see here). We were highly critical of the police, who had failed to issue any press statement whatsoever, despite the proximity of the poisoned stash to a public caravan park (see photo, which we took in Feb this year). NB: This caravan park has no connection whatsoever to the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate.

Leadhills RPSWe were also critical of the police investigation, which included arriving on scene in marked police vehicles, thus notifying any poisoner(s) of their presence and allowing the poisoner(s) valuable time to hide any remaining evidence. We also criticised their failure to conduct a police search of the adjacent moor for any evidence of baits that had already been set out. Their failure to conduct an immediate search was particularly stupid given (a) the known history of poisoning incidents in this area and (b) the knowledge that one of the two game bags was only half full of baits.

In November 2013 we blogged about the high probability that a prosecution would not be forthcoming in this case (see here).

Today, we have just read a SASA report that confirms our suspicions. This incident is recorded as:

No suspect identified. Case now closed“.

The Untouchables get away with committing a serious wildlife crime, again….

First Irish-bred sea eagle shot & killed

sea_eagle1One of two Irish-bred white-tailed sea eagles, hatched last year for the first time in over 100 years, has been shot and killed.

The nine-month old bird was found in a remote part of Tipperary with 40-50 shot gun pellets in its body.

A post mortem revealed that the pellets had broken one of the bird’s legs and wing but the bird had survived for several weeks before succumbing to its injuries.

What an absolutely tragic and shocking outcome, highlighting once again that the disgraceful illegal persecution of raptors continues unabated in these isles.

See here for the report in the Irish Times to read the response of the Minister and the Irish White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction team.

We’re absolutely gutted for them.

The photograph shows Project Manager Allan Mee with one of the first sea eagle chicks donated to the project by Norway in 2007.

Further coverage

Golden Eagle Trust press release here

Independent Ireland article here

BBC news article here

RTE News & audio here

Gamekeeper accused of pole-trapping on Lloyd Webber’s estate

scales of justiceIt has been reported that a gamekeeper is appearing in court tomorrow to face various charges of alleged wildlife crime on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s country estate.

There is no suggestion Andrew Lloyd Webber was involved.

Mark Stevens, 42, is accused of five alleged offences. Three relate to allegations that a tawny owl was caught in a spring trap set on a pole on the Sydmonton Court Estate, Hampshire in August 2013. Two relate to allegations that spring traps were not properly set on the Sydmonton Court Estate in September 2013.

Tomorrow’s hearing will be the first in this case.

Further updates later…

SGA Chairman claims he was “stitched up” by Channel 4 News

Mod Game coverbRemember last month when Channel 4 News did a piece on raptor persecution on grouse moors in Scotland? The one where SGA Chairman Alex Hogg was asked whether gamekeepers were poisoning, shooting and trapping birds of prey and he replied:

No they aren’t. We would dispute that“.

Yes, THAT programme (see here and here for previous blogs).

Well according to the monthly game keeping rag Modern Gamekeeping, Hogg reckons Channel 4 News stitched him up.

According to the article, Hogg said that during a one-hour interview he was asked the question of whether gamekeepers were killing raptors at least half a dozen times. “By the time the interviewer asked it the last time, I was so annoyed I just said ‘No’ and didn’t give a reason“.

Sounds like he stitched himself up, telling a blatant lie that he must have known was going to be challenged with irrefutable evidence that gamekeepers have been convicted for illegally killing raptors, including members of his own organisation.

He also complains about being interviewed last (after Ian Thomson of RSPB Scotland, Dominic Dyer of Care for the Wild, and Logan Steele of the Scottish Raptor Study Group), and therefore having to respond to ‘claims’ [aka given facts] made by the other interviewees, and not being allowed to talk about waders [and presumably the unproven, non-evidenced claims that raptors are wiping them out and therefore keepers should be able to cull raptors].

He also says, “There were also a lot of figures used that were not official figures held by the police or the Scottish Government“. Really? The figures used were based on scientific evidence and official court records, accepted by every person and organisation in the country except for those with a vested interest in the grouse-shooting industry.

He goes on to argue that the finished programme was “extreme”, designed to provoke an emotional response from the public, and didn’t fairly represent what he was trying to say. How you can misrepresent, “No they aren’t. We would dispute that” in response to a simple question of whether gamekeepers are persecuting raptors is a mystery. Did he mean to say, ‘Yes, we are illegally killing raptors’?

All the Hogg nonsense aside, there is a particularly interesting paragraph in the article, presumably written by the rag’s editor. It reads:

Presenter Cordelia Lynch then quoted RSPB figures to claim that hen harriers were ‘close to extinction’ on the grounds that none had bred last year in England – ignoring the fact that the bird is categorised as ‘Least Concern’ worldwide with a global population of more than 1,300,000 and its major threat is stated to be ‘habitat loss’. It is also said to be ‘highly vulnerable to the impacts of potential wind energy developments’ (source: BTO)“.

Now, this claim of the species being classified as ‘Least Concern’ is often trotted out by those trying to downplay the seriousness of the species’ conservation status in the UK. It is an accurate statement in as much as this is what is written on the species’ IUCN Red List entry (from where the quote is taken), with the addition of one important statement conveniently left out by the Modern Gamekeeping editor – under the heading ‘Major Threats’:

“Persecution is an important threat locally, notably on game preserves in Scotland (del Hoyo et al. 1994)”.

The species’ IUCN listing is fine to use if you want to stick to a species’ global conservation status and ignore its European and UK conservation status. If you look at the IUCN global status for the three wader species that Hogg and friends are up in arms about, their listings also give little cause for concern:

Lapwing – listed as Least Concern. Estimated population c. 5,200,000-10,000,000 individuals. Major threats include land use intensification, pollution and hunting. [Note, no mention of raptors being a major threat].

Curlew – listed as Near Threatened. Estimated population c. 77,000-1,065,000 individuals. Major threats include afforestation, agricultural intensification and hunting. [Note, no mention of raptors being a major threat].

Golden Plover – listed as Least Concern. No population estimate given. Major threats include cultivation and afforestation, severe weather conditions and hunting. [Note, no mention of raptors being a major threat].

So, on the basis of suggesting that the hen harrier’s conservation status is of ‘least concern’ on a global scale [and therefore why all the fuss of losing an entire breeding population in England?], the statement is equally as applicable to those three wader species, right? We shouldn’t be concerned about any of them because on a global scale they’re all doing just fine, right?


Fortunately, government and non-governmental organisations are a lot more clued in and understand the concept, and importance, of national, regional and local biodiversity. Indeed, the Westminster and Scottish Governments have a statutory responsibility for ensuring that national biodiversity targets are met and maintained (although you wouldn’t know it by their continuing failure to address illegal raptor persecution). Rather than use the broad-based IUCN Red List as guidance, they look to more detailed and relevant assessments such as the UK ‘Birds of Conservation Concern’ scientific review (see here). In this document, the hen harrier and lapwing are red listed, and the golden plover and curlew are amber listed.

It’s quite telling, isn’t it, that those with a vested interest in grouse-shooting should continue to not only deny their involvement in the catastrophic loss of an entire breeding population (hen harriers in England), but also continue to downplay its conservation significance.

Our 4th birthday

Today is our 4th birthday!

It’s been another strong year and our audience continues to grow, as this graph showing our yearly blog hits shows:

RPS blog hits 2010-2014

The top ten most viewed blog posts over the last year are:

1. Natural England issues licence to destroy buzzard eggs and nests to protect pheasants (see here)

2. The life, and death, of golden eagle Fearnan (see here)

3. Council leader calls for ‘open season’ on hen harriers (see here)

4. Significant haul of poisoned baits found on Leadhills Estate (see here)

5. Police investigate alleged destruction of sea eagle nest on Scottish grouse moor (see here)

6. Golden eagle found poisoned on Angus grouse moor (see here)

7. The gruesome fate of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors (see here)

8. Farmers taking aim at sea eagles, again (see here)

9. Buzzards trapped and beaten to death with a stick: gamekeeper convicted (see here)

10. New hen harrier ‘initiative’ is outrageous (see here)

Year 5 here we come. Thanks for your continued support.