In a move that is fast becoming as predictable as the disappearance of a satellite-tagged raptor on a driven grouse moor, a representative of landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) has launched an attack on the RSPB following yesterday’s news that hen harrier Calluna has ‘disappeared’ after visiting a Deeside grouse moor.
In an article published in today’s Press & Journal (here), David Fyffe, Board Director of SLE and Chairman of SLE’s north-east branch accuses the RSPB of “smearing shooting groups” and ‘not following the agreed protocol’ when the bird went missing.
In comments which echo those that SLE Chairman David Johnstone made in the press yesterday, Mr Fyffe argues that local landowners should have been alerted as soon as the tag stopped transmitting so that estate staff could ‘help with the search’.
Ah yes, it’s always a great idea to ask potential suspects to help search a potential crime scene to secure potential evidence. Genius.
Who remembers what happened the last time estate staff ‘assisted’ in a search for a missing satellite-tagged raptor? Here’s a reminder – the RSPB staff who were working with Police Scotland staff were falsely accused of being ‘Masked intruders‘, ‘Masked RSPB thugs‘ and ‘RSPB representatives conducting themselves like hunt saboteurs wearing intimidating hoods and masks’ (see here).
And as pointed out in a comment made by a blog reader yesterday, in the case of missing hen harrier Calluna, had the RSPB notified the estate on 12th August when the tag stopped transmitting, the grouse-shooting industry would have wailed vociferously that the timing was just a publicity stunt designed to coincide with the opening of the grouse-shooting season.
It’s all part of a very familiar pantomime.
The RSPB was accused earlier this year of ‘openly ignoring’ the agreed PAW protocol for missing satellite-tagged raptors by not immediately informing the local landowner. At the time we showed that this allegation was blatantly untrue. David Fyffe’s allegation is also a complete fabrication. Here’s a copy of the agreed PAW protocol:
In the case of missing hen harrier Calluna, the sudden cessation of her satellite tag signal was suspicious. Usually if a satellite tag is about to have a technical malfunction there will be prior warning signs in the associated engineering data, particularly a drop in battery voltage – see here. But Calluna’s tag was reported to be “working perfectly” prior to its abrupt stop.
In addition to this, Calluna’s tag stopped working in an area with a known history of illegal raptor persecution.
So, having established that the circumstances of Calluna’s disappearance were suspicious, what does the PAW protocol flow chart indicate should happen next? Does it say ‘immediately inform the landowner’? No, of course it doesn’t. It says ‘Contact local police’.
David Fyffe owes the RSPB an apology. Getting one will be as unlikely as hen harrier Calluna being found safe and well (it could happen but nobody’s holding their breath).
UPDATE: 5 September 2017: Scottish Land & Estates and their indefensible distortion of the truth (see here).