Illegal raptor killing is PR disaster for Cairngorms National Park, says Convener

strathspey-badenoch-herald-park-talk-15th-sept-2016Illegal raptor killing is a PR disaster for the Cairngorms National Park, says Peter Argyle, the current Convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

He’s not wrong.

Since the Cairngorms National Park was established in 2003, there have been over 60 recorded incidents of illegal persecution (see here) and these are only the ones that have reported. There are likely to have been many, many more that have gone undiscovered.

Writing in a blog published on the CNPA website (here), and also published in the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald last week (see photo), Peter follows in the footsteps of his predecessor Duncan Bryden, who, two years ago, wrote to the then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse about how raptor persecution “threatens to undermine the reputation of the National Park as a high quality wildlife tourism destination” (see here).

Peter’s blog is fairly balanced; he acknowledges that there are some estates within the National Park who are engaged in on-going conservation efforts (Glenfeshie would be a good example) but he also recognises that illegal raptor persecution is undertaken by those seeking to maximise grouse numbers. And therein lies the problem.

Peter says, “Properly managed, grouse moors can deliver massive environmental and public benefits, be it around climate change, biodiversity, habitat creation or in flood management“. But what does “properly managed” actually mean? Presumably not the intensive management regimes currently in use on many grouse moor estates within the Park which most definitely are not delivering ‘massive environmental and public benefits’ – in fact the exact opposite (see here).

Peter also says, “I nail my colours firmly to the mast when I say that I support the continuation of grouse shooting but this support is not unconditional“. He wants to have “a full and frank dialogue over all of the issues so that both public and private interests can be met“. He doesn’t seem to have grasped the fact that years of dialogue have proven futile, resulting in Golden eagles poisoned, golden eagles ‘disappearing’, chronic golden eagle survival rates (here), white-tailed eagles ‘disappearing’, white-tailed eagle nests felled, hen harriers shot, breeding hen harriers in catastrophic decline (here), goshawks shot, goshawk nests being attacked, peregrines shot, peregrine nest sites burnt out, breeding peregrines in long-term decline (here), buzzards poisoned, buzzards shot, red kites poisoned, short-eared owls shot, poisoned baits laid out, illegally-set traps, and mountain hares massacred.

We’ve blogged before about how the Cairngorms National Park Authority can take steps to stop the illegal persecution of raptors within the Park boundary (here) and we’d remind Peter, not that he needs it as Park Convener, of the CNPA’s four aims, set out by Parliament:

  1. To conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the CNP;
  2. To promote sustainable use of the natural resources of the CNP;
  3. To promote understanding and enjoyment (including enjoyment in the form of recreation) of the special qualities of the CNP by the public;
  4. To promote sustainable economic and social development of the CNP’s communities.

These aims are to be pursued collectively. However, if there is conflict between the first aim and any of the others then greater weight must be given to the first aim (section 9.6 of the National Parks (Scotland) Act).

If you haven’t already, please consider participating in the CNPA’s current consultation process on the Park’s five-year management plan. This plan will help guide the CNPA’s work on the most pressing issues, one of which has been identified as grouse moor management. Let the CNPA know of your concerns about intensive grouse moor management within the Park boundary, about the environmental damage it is causing and how self-regulation has failed, repeatedly, since the Park was first established back in 2003. The consultation closes on 30 Sept and the documents can be accessed here.

20 thoughts on “Illegal raptor killing is PR disaster for Cairngorms National Park, says Convener”

  1. A PR disaster!! It’s off the scale. I can honestly say that it is the last venue that I would chose to visit in Scotland now. Why? Just the awareness of the persecution that has gone on, that continues to go on would make any time spent there a seriously unpleasant experience. Not simply the absence of predators but the encounter with grouse moor habitat and the connotations it has, seeing a mountain hare and wondering how safe it is and how it’s life will end, feeling the need to be watchful since the persecution is ongoing and could be there for me to see. I would very much like to visit the Highland Wildlife Park and gaze at wildcats but that is about all I can find that appeals and that would be a very poignant encounter since the chances of a wild encounter are even more remote! No, anywhere else in Scotland will be better in my book. CNP is a seriously tarnished concept now, surely ripe for a couple of million rebranding exercise to relaunch it!

  2. I suspect they are getting a hammering on their consultation and this is the result. Obviously they need more hammering to get the point through. It is not just a PR disaster in the reporting, it is also suppressing possible visitor numbers to see what wildlife and raptors still exists because people have stopped talking about seeing them, fearful that if they do the next visitor won’t have a camera but a shotgun or a carcass injected full of carbo. I don’t think driven grouse, the field sport version of Nintendo Duck Hunt, should have a future at all in the national parks (or at all) but walk up grouse and woodland deer stalking could be sustainable if the intensive management of moors is ended. No more muirburn for a start! No more drainage. Big fences only for as long as necessary to keep deer out of woodland regeneration areas and to trap deer for numbers culling until lynx or wolf can be reintroduced. Grouse roads downgraded to simple walker paths (teach the keepies and shooters to ride ponies -they were good enough for Queen Victoria- instead of range rovers).

  3. Peter, I am so tired of hearing this apologist nonsense from the park, ” is undermined by the actions of the tiny minority ”

    We all know that wildlife crime is routinely committed by ALL estates, ‘possibly’ with the exception of a tiny minority. Show me a keeper who hasn’t killed a protected raptor, who has failed to check traps or snares, that hasn’t killed pet cats, and I’ll show you unicorns in the park.

    You say ” Grouse are hugely important to the economy of the Park ” what is the income generated by driven grouse shooting ? How much do the participants receive in grants and subsidies ? Might shed a different light on things eh ?

    The quickest way to allow Scottish wildlife to reappear in the park, would be to expel all gamekeepers – end of.

    You have been ” working together ” since 2003, and where has that got us ? There are now almost no raptors in the eastern side of the park ! Time to stop touching your forelock, and start prosecuting these criminals.

  4. Park?! I’d rather take a vacation in light oaks park in the middle of Salford Manchester! A pair of Peregrines nested there this year, nobody really noticed and nobody really cared! There is more wildlife in urban parks than the CNP full stop! Its over run with deer, void of any ‘wild’ life and scrorched barren within an inch of its life, Park?! I cant stop laughing! The trouble with these so called National Parks is wealthy Land Owners. The government actively encourages their disgraceful managenent of the so called grouse moors for the benefit of the rich at the expense of everybody and wverything else! There is nothing wild or park like about any of Britains uplands, they run red with the blood of death and grubby money. It will never change as long as you have a class riddled government in power which is hell bent on dragging this nation back to the 1800’s. A two tier society is what they want, and because of Corbyn, they’ll achieve it. Grammar Schools, Fox hunting, peasants and commoners employed to do the grouse beating for the gentry… Its a joke. Soon it’ll be just be the imigrant slaves and the upper class. How very nice.

  5. In June I was on the Outer Hebrides and met eight American tourists. They said they chose the islands over the Cairngorms because in thier words ‘they did not wish to spend time in an environment which required the widespread killing of animals and birds to support driven grouse shooting’. These people were spending a lot of money on food, accomodation and travel which could have been spent in the CNPA area. Now statistics like this are never captured and it is the fragile tourism economy that suffers not the shooting estates. Next year they are returning, this time to Shetland and Orkney. This is clear evidence of visitors voting with their tourist pounds.

    1. Of course the horrible thing is, the estates don’t want tourists around. For them putting off tourists is a definite feature not a bug. The estates want their feudal playgrounds which operate as near as possible to Norman Forest Law with only what pleases the local big man being allowed and anyone else subject to being turned off at the first opportunity. The Park Authority has to challenge that attitude in order to bring in tourists and I don’t think they really want to do that as it is too much like hard work.

  6. Unfortunately Peter Argyle seems to be yet another ‘driven grouse shooting’ appeaser. There should be no killing estates in any national park. Killing of animals within a national park that should be there to protect the natural environment, is completely and morally wrong. It has now been many weeks since I have seen any bird of prey in the western cairngorms which is totally disgusting. in fact I must ask “is there any raptors left in the cairngorms national park”?

  7. Well said Logan, as I said in a previous blog we have many numbers of people who come to Scotland to experience our wildlife.
    It is sad that they have to only visit the Hebrides to see raptors when they could be seen elsewhere if all of the persecution was to stop.
    Scottish Land & Estates need to realise that these visitors would come and spend money on their properties if they were guaranteed to see what should be there.
    Gamekeepering should become a redundant occupation and instead turn their attentions to showing the paying public all of our wildlife.
    Believe me they would get great satisfaction out of it and their customers would go away talking about it and encouraging others to come and enjoy what they have experienced.

  8. Its quite clear that the grouse moors are the problem. They are killing raptors, they are causing all sorts of environmental issues including intensive muir burn, draining the moors, bulldozing hill roads all of which increase water runoff & compound flooding in the straths. Ironically they are being paid public money to do this! Peter Argyll is not doing anything to change this & by saying he is all for grouse shooting he is part of the problem. He’s certainly not fit to hold the position.

    1. It is not just grouse, driven pheasant shooting is increasing in the park, which means yet more excuses to kill everything with tooth or claw !

      Also farming is intensifying, fewer farmers with more land, means more and heavier machinery, more spraying, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides and fertilisers, and just to make sure, gas guns to stop birds feeding and breeding. This means that the bottom end of the wildlife food chain is removed.

      It seems that between shooting estates and farmers, they want to eradicate all wildlife, and operate in a completely sterile environment, better for profit !

      ‘ Managed’ to death.

      But, what the hell, lets have meaningful talks with the stakeholders, for another 13 years.

  9. Have to agree with the comments here. Would have no interest visiting such a place when I can see more wildlife in many of the larger urban parks in Southern England

  10. What a tragedy – the raptors should be bringing people to the parks to see them happy and healthy in their natural habitat. What can be done?

    1. The thing that can and should be done is to ban all driven grouse shooting and to ban all gamekeepers form the park, their presence is not required.

  11. For once I disagree with raptor persecution UK. In my opinion the blog by Peter Argyle was not fairly well balanced, it was little different to the usual drivel put out by the grouse industry. He talks about the good work being done by some estates to reduce deer numbers, increase tree cover and restore peat bogs. This work is certainly being done by the RSPB at Abernethy, the National Trust at Mar Lodge and Glen Feshie estate. Can Peter or anyone else name a traditional sporting estate where this kind of work is being undertaken on a large scale? Peter also talks about a small minority of estates undermining the good work done by others. This is the same old tired excuse trotted out by the grouse industry, that intensive management for grouse has huge conservation value and it is only a few bad apples spoiling things. We all (hopefully) know that illegal raptor persecution, slaughtering of mountain hares, trapping of foxes, crows etc. is carried out on most if not all grouse moors. Peter says that 40% of the Park is moorland, this doesn’t mean that this is the best amount of moorland we need in order to promote biodiversity or ecosystem services such as flood prevention. The Cairngorms National Park is supposed to enhance the natural environment not side with those that destroy for personal gain. If Peter is a “friend” of nature who needs enemies.
    There is another blog on the National Park website by Will Boyd Wallis Head of Land Management & Conservation. This to a large degree gives the same one sided view of the benefits of grouse moor management, and again talks about some of the good work being done by some land owners, but doesn’t say if they are private grouse moor owners or conservation NGO’s thus giving the impression that at least some of the work is being done on grouse moors. Will mentions taking part in a survey of montane scrub (a valuable part of the ecosystem comprised of dwarf birch various willow species and juniper, but one of the most degraded habitats in Scotland) this summer. I found this particularly interesting as I took part in an extensive survey of montane trees at Mar Lodge (owned by the National Trust) this summer and as far as I’m aware this was the only survey taking place. We indeed found a lot of trees and the potential for a lot of regeneration and restoration to take place, however this was on the part of the estate that is managed for conservation. Will gives the impression that this habitat could have been found on any grouse moor. Until recently the National Trust managed Mar Lodge as a traditional shooting estate and we found that in areas that had been burnt until relatively recently there were no montane tree species whereas in other place there were a lot. We also surveyed right up to the boundary with the Invercauld estate and found that the height of the trees was significantly lower close to the boundary due to overgrazing by deer crossing from Invercauld. This very strongly suggests that traditional management practices do not support a healthy ecosystem, but you would never guess this from Will’s blog. He seems to be living up to his job description as Head of Land Management by promoting current forms of management, while the conservation part of the job has been tacked on for PR purposes just as it has with the BASC, GWCT etc. Once again the CNPA is failing to do anything to enhance the natural environment and making the park little more than a “paper park” that officially exists but achieves bugger all on the ground. They are a complete disgrace, an utter waste of space and a laughing stock among most conservationists.

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