RSPB Scotland has issued a press release about the discovery of two illegally killed red kites in the Highlands. One was found shot on a railway line and the other one was found poisoned on Cawdor Estate (see photo).
The press release is interesting (read it here) but what’s more interesting is what is revealed by reading in between the lines.
Both birds were discovered in 2014. The shot red kite was found near Beauly in June 2014 (probably this one we blogged about in October 2014) and the poisoned red kite was found in September 2014.
The RSPB statement says, “Both of these incidents took place in 2014 and are now being made public as the Police have concluded their enquiries”.
So it takes Police Scotland over a year to disclose an illegally shot red kite and almost a year to disclose an illegally poisoned red kite. They’ve now ‘concluded their enquiries’ without appealing for information from the public and without executing a search under warrant on Cawdor Estate. What exactly did their ‘enquiries’ entail? Sitting around a table, scratching their heads, before deciding to keep both crimes under wraps?
Of course, an investigation in to the circumstances of the shot red kite would be a hide in to nothing – the bird was most probably shot elsewhere and dumped on the railway line to make it look like it had collided with a train. That’s a very difficult crime to detect, although had the Police made an appeal for information at the time the bird was found, there was always a slim chance that someone might have seen something. But no, far easier just to keep quiet and not attract any more embarrassing media coverage so soon after the mass poisoning of 22 kites and buzzards at nearby Conon Bridge (which is still undetected….more on that soon).
However, the ‘investigation’ in to the circumstances of the poisoned red kite that was found on Cawdor Estate just beggars belief. Cawdor Estate is well known as it has been at the centre of alleged wildlife crimes for over two decades. Here are just some of the incidents recorded either on the estate or close to the estate (for which nobody has ever been prosecuted) –
1992: Dead buzzard, magpie and sheep (laced with Strychnine)
1993: Dead buzzard (poisoned with Alphachloralose) found on Forestry Commission land 100 metres from the boundary of Cawdor Estate.
1994: Three dead buzzards (poisoned with Alphachloralose) and a poisoned rabbit bait
1996: Three poisoned baits found: a hare laced with Alphachloralose, a goat laced with Aldicarb and a widgeon laced with Strychnine.
1996: A hidden pit containing a suspected bird of prey poisoning kit uncovered by investigators three miles from the estate.
1999: A report sent to the Procurator Fiscal alleging that mountain hares were illegally persecuted in snares on the estate.
2000: A second report submitted to the Fiscal claiming mistreatment of hares on the estate.
2001: A dead golden eagle (poisoned with Carbofuran)
2004: A number of illegal gin traps found set around rabbit baits
2004: A dead buzzard (poisoned with Carbofuran)
2005: A dead red kite (poisoned with Carbofuran)
2007: A dead red kite (poisoned with Carbofuran)
2010: Two red kites found poisoned on neighbouring ground close to estate boundary
With a record like this, wouldn’t you expect Police Scotland, on discovery of the latest poisoned red kite, to request a search warrant and head straight for the estate? Wouldn’t that be a logical first step? Why didn’t that happen?
Did the Police actually talk to anybody on Cawdor Estate about this poisoned kite? If you read a quote attributed to Alex Hogg of the SGA (on the BBC news website here), you’d think not. Hogg says:
“This is the first we have heard of any such incidents….”.
Really? Cawdor Estate has very close links to the SGA. Cawdor’s former Head Gamekeeper and later Sporting Manager Roddy Forbes was the inaugural Chairman of the SGA. And further, the SGA’s 2010 Young Gamekeeper of the Year was an employee on Cawdor Estate. That’s indicative of pretty close ties between the estate and the SGA, and yet the SGA claim not to have heard about this crime?
As an aside, Hogg is further quoted: “….We do not know the possible causes [of the birds’ deaths] which makes it difficult to comment further”.
Eh? The causes of death have been established. One kite was shot, the other was poisoned. Why is it ‘difficult to comment further’? A little bit too embarrassing, Alex?
A Police Scotland spokesperson is also quoted in the BBC article:
“Investigating wildlife crime is challenging because of its nature, and the vast areas covered. Police Scotland works closely with partners including the RSPB to tackle wildlife crime, and brings to bear the full range of investigative techniques at its disposal. Our detection rate is increasing. Our aim is to reduce wildlife crime and earlier this year we launched a campaign raising awareness”.
Yes, of course investigating wildlife crime is challenging, nobody disputes that. But sitting on enquiries, hiding them from the public, and not undertaking searches on estates where poisoned birds are discovered is not ‘bringing to bear the full range of investigative techniques’ at their disposal. It’s anything but that.
And what’s this about ‘our detection rate is increasing’? Are there any data to support this claim or are we supposed to just accept the word of a police force under increasing pressure to get its act together?
So what now for Cawdor Estate, almost one year on from the discovery of this poisoned kite? Might it be too much to hope that SNH will issue a General Licence restriction order? Guess we’ll have to wait and see, although that might be a bit embarrassing for SNH given that they have chucked thousands of pounds (of our money!) at Cawdor Estate to help fund their ranger service.