Reactions to the ‘missing’ East Scotland sea eagle

Sea-eagle chick 1 nestOn Thursday we blogged about the ‘disappearance’ of a young white-tailed eagle from a grouse moor in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire (see here).

This wasn’t just any old sea eagle, if there is such a thing. This was the first fledged white-tailed eagle in East Scotland in over 200 years – a pioneering bird from the East Scotland Sea Eagle Reintroduction Project; an initiative which had begun back in 2007. This young bird didn’t know it, but it was a symbol of conservation success – the result of thousands and thousands of hours of work by a dedicated team determined to restore this species back to its former range.

We refer to the bird in the past tense because in all likelihood, it is dead. It ‘disappeared’ in a notorious raptor persecution black hole where several other eagles have similarly ‘disappeared’ over the last few years, never to be seen again.

This area includes the North Glenbuchat Estate, from where this ‘missing’ sea eagle’s final sat tag signal was reportedly transmitted in mid-April. A poisoned golden eagle was found there in 2011, along with a poisoned buzzard, a poisoned bait, and a dead short-eared owl that had been shot and stuffed under a rock. (No prosecutions, of course).

Here are some of the responses to this latest incident…

Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), said: “As a member of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime, Scottish Land & Estates is offering every assistance to the investigation into the missing sea eagle in the north-east of Scotland and wholly supports the appeals for information that have been made by the Scottish Government and Police Scotland. It is of paramount importance that the facts are established as soon as possible and it would not be appropriate to comment on any specifics of the ongoing police investigation.”

[Note: we blogged yesterday about how the North Glenbuchat Estate became a member of SLE in 2013. Fascinating, eh?]

A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The case of the missing sea eagle in the North East is currently under live investigation. There is very little known about the bird or the case at present so we await the outcome of the Police Scotland investigation.”

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse tweeted: “Clearly, I am not going to speculate on police investigations, but all on justice side keen to drive out such disgusting acts”.

Other members of society have been much more demonstrative in their condemnation:

The following appeared as an editorial in the Press & Journal:

The news that a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle has gone missing in Aberdeenshire will send a chill down the spine of anyone who cares about Scotland’s natural heritage. Four tagged golden eagles have gone missing in the same area in the last five years and another was found poisoned in 2011. The first white-tailed eagle to be raised on the east coast in almost 200 years vanished as police continued to investigate the deaths of 20 raptors in the Black Isle. Public revulsion at the killings in Ross-shire is evident in the donations to a reward fund, now standing at more than £26,000. It is surely now time for the authorities to look seriously at why society is failing to give these magnificent birds the protection they deserve.”

Calton Hill, an independent blogger from Edinburgh, was moved to write this.

The ever-impressive Andy Wightman wrote a fascinating blog on who owns North Glenbuchat Estate and the inherent complications of proceeding with any potential vicarious liability prosecution (see here, and also read the comments for some local insight).

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, gave an interview to STV news in which he explained how young birds are drawn into these ‘black holes’ [of persecution] time and time again (watch the video here). Incidentally, at the end of this video, the reporter, Cheryl Paul, mentions the rise in the body count of the Ross-shire Massacre – this was our news source for yesterday’s blog when we reported that the death toll was now 22 (including 16 red kites and six buzzards).

In more general terms, earlier today Cameron McNeish wrote a compelling article which has appeared on the WalkHighlands website, discussing the ‘national embarrassment’ of raptor persecution in Scotland (see here).

And finally, according to our blog stats, over 100 of you have emailed Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse about this crime (thank you).

We’re waiting for his formal response.

2 thoughts on “Reactions to the ‘missing’ East Scotland sea eagle”

  1. Paul Wheelhouse and the whole Scottish government are running scared of these powerful estate owners, all they want to do is appease them, Cameron McNeish was correct in his assessment, re. the shameful Donald Trump fiasco. (Why designate a special area, when someone can come along with enough money to make you change your principles) Our wildlife hadn’t got a chance in hell until these people, and most of the judiciary get a backbone.

    This government bought in vicarious liability (good for them) which the Westminster government is refusing to do for England, but it is no good unless they intend to use it. We the public and voters have had enough!

  2. Unbelievably shocking but incredibly well researched article by Andy Wightman on Land Matters. What kind of country are we living in?
    I also couldn’t help noticing the shocking (yes sorry that word shock again) comment by Dave Dick who is presumably the same Dave Dick who comments often on RPS and was previously an RSPB Investigations Officer
    “I have even known of some [gamekeepers] who carry on the killing when their managers have told them to stop.”
    I try not to despair!
    P.S. before i am corrected, i know that the fault is not just the criminal element of the gamekeepers.

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