Three days ago Tim Baynes of the Scottish Land & Estates Moorland Group penned a letter to the Herald complaining about media speculation over the cause of the Ross-shire Massacre. He also (falsely) claimed that crimes against raptors had decreased.
Duncan Orr-Ewing of RSPB Scotland sets the record straight in his response letter:
The Herald 29 October 2014
Mr Tim Baynes of the Scottish Land and Estates Moorland Group accuses wildlife charities of speculating on the illegal poisoning case in spring 2014 involving the death of 16 red kites on the Black Isle, in his words “straining the relationship between land managers and conservationists” (“Landowners hit out at wildlife group claims on raptor killing”, The Herald, October 27 and Letters, October 27).
He also suggests that crimes against birds of prey are declining. Neither is correct.
We have long experience of supporting police wildlife crime investigations, and have a strong interest in ensuring that cases lead to successful prosecutions. We work within protocols agreed with the police. This appalling episode on the Black Isle has rightly caused public outrage, and there is intense frustration that justice is not being seen to be done.
The majority of the crime that is impacting on the status of bird of prey populations in Scotland occurs on land managed for driven grouse shooting. This is a fact supported by a substantial evidence base. Most land managers in Scotland act responsibly and have no involvement with wildlife crime. The Black Isle incident, which occurred on farmland, is by its location, very much the exception to the general rule. Due to the evidence of the systemic illegal killing of raptors and other unsustainable land management practices that occurs on some moors, we now consider that the voluntary approach has failed, and tighter regulation of driven grouse shooting is required.
As director of Scottish Land and Estates Moorland Group, Mr Baynes could perhaps do more with his own audience to help tackle the crimes that are impacting on the populations of golden eagles and hen harriers, and marginalise bad practice. The flouting of national laws designed to protect our most vulnerable wildlife is what undermines the relationship between conservationists and grouse moor owners, and it also tarnishes the reputation of those land owners who observe best practice.
The latest Scottish Government statistics, issued only a fortnight ago, show an increase in the number of reported wildlife crimes against birds of prey in 2013 in comparison to 2012. In addition, the monitoring of bird of prey populations in Scotland still highlights that species such as hen harriers and golden eagles are absent or fail to breed successfully in large swathes of the central and eastern Highlands and Southern Uplands, where driven grouse shooting takes place. Golden eagles and other birds of prey fitted with GPS satellite tags, allowing accurate tracking by researchers, are also either being found illegally killed or poisoned or “disappearing” in these very same areas.
It is surely time for Mr Baynes to help his members take a responsible stance, thus resolving this serious problem soon.
Head of Species and Land Management,
2 Lochside View,
Edinburgh Park, Edinburgh.