Chair of Nidderdale AONB condemns illegal raptor persecution

Don’t ever underestimate the power of public pressure.

You know that big solid wall of silence we’re all so used to looking at every time a raptor crime is discovered and reported? It looks like it’s finally beginning to crumble.

The latest to speak out, spontaneously (i.e. without prompting), about the continued illegal killing of birds of prey is the Chair of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s Joint Advisory Committee, Councillor Nigel Simms:

He’s obviously taken a lead from the spontaneous statement made by the neighbouring Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority yesterday.

The publication of this statement from the Nidderdale AONB is really, really welcome. The Nidderdale AONB in North Yorkshire is notorious as a raptor persecution hotspot and has been for many years. We’ve lost count of the number of red kites that never make it out of this particular hell hole, although the RSPB has been keeping track – 22 poisoned or shot in the last ten years, and that’s only the ones that were found.

Nidderdale red kite persecution incidents 2007-2017, map by RSPB:

Illegally-killed red kite (photo Marc Ruddock):

We also know that hen harriers rarely get out of Nidderdale alive – unfortunately we can’t show you a detailed map because Natural England wants to keep the details a secret. Natural England is supposed to protect hen harriers but it’s clearly more interested in protecting the reputations of criminal landowners and gamekeepers. Anyway, here’s a photo of an illegally-killed satellite-tagged hen harrier – something you might see if you visit Nidderdale AONB, assuming you get to it before the gamekeeper who shot it:

It’s interesting to see that these crimes are “starting to have a damaging effect on tourism businesses“, according to Cllr Simms. Good, not for the businesses affected, obviously, but good that it will drive increased local pressure to bring these crimes to an end.

Cllr Simms’ comment that illegal raptor persecution “undermines the work of law-abiding landowners and gamekeepers who are actively working alongside us to improve prospects for all forms of wildlife in the AONB” is slightly odd. Which law-abiding landowners and gamekeepers are those? Presumably not anyone involved with any of the aforementioned red kite killings or hen harrier disappearances, nor, presumably, anybody involved with the attempted shooting of a nesting marsh harrier and the removal of its eggs, as filmed on a Nidderdale AONB grouse moor by the RSPB earlier this year?

There’s much work to do in this AONB but this very public condemnation of illegal raptor persecution from the Chair of the AONB Advisory Committee is encouraging. Well done, Cllr Nigel Simms.

Now, who’s next to speak out and bring that wall of silence crashing down?

24 thoughts on “Chair of Nidderdale AONB condemns illegal raptor persecution”

  1. Yes, it’s good to have these folk admitting there is a problem in their area; not before time, mind you. However, actions speak louder than words, so I’m not holding my breath for any improvements right now. I doubt they would support a complete ban, but unless they publicly support a licence system at the very least, I suspect the criminals involved will ignore them.

      1. Yes lets openly welcome all these changes of heart , but don’t forget it has taken decades to bring these people screaming and kicking to this point , they would not voluntarily move one millimetre of they were not forced to. I am still a bit suspicious as to their real motives , lets smile politely but keep the big stick in a firm grip behind our backs ,I wouldn’t trust the bastards as far as I could throw them.

  2. As long as the gamekeepers feel so confident to refuse moving forward from their 19C mindset, nothing is going to change.
    The organisations which are supposed to represent the organised crime bosses seem to have no control over their members or in turn their henchmen.
    But things have to start somewhere and Christopher Grafficus may have set the ball rolling.

  3. While all these responses appear spontaneous, after years of denial and pretending everything is rosy, I can’t help but think the sudden rush of press releases isn’t coincidental. So, either there’s something about to come out and this is damage limitation (following the recent police search?), or it’s the next step in the phony war. They can now all show how good they are, and how seriously they actually do take wildlife crime and there’s no need for further action/licensing/laws.
    At the moment it’s all just words. I’ll believe it when they start turning the ‘bad apples’ in. There’s still complete silence about the Denton Moor marsh harrier and I do not believe no one knows who the mysterious armed men were, wandering around on a Nidderdale grouse moor.
    Still, admitting there’s a problem is the 1st step in any ‘program’ aimed at ridding yourself of a behavioural issue.

    1. couldnt agree more. It will take more than one press release from BASC to make me go anywhere near trusting the shooting lot. It may be genuine but more likely to have a hidden agenda behind it. we need licencing and we need it now. Unfortunately Avery banging on about an unachievable ban (however much id like it) has diluted the strength of the RSPBs push for licencing and set us back however long. Natural England know exactly how many hen harriers have been lost in the nidderdale AONB. If they publish that data I bet many would be shocked at the scale of raptors disappearing in an area of “natural beauty”

      1. Disagree with that comment about “Avery banging on about an unachievable ban..”….I doubt very much whether the RSPB hierarchy would have pushed hard for licensing without that obviously publicly supported call for a Ban….the idea that the shooting establishment will tamely go for even such a mild step as licensing [unless of course they can control that…which they will try hard to do] is pie in the sky. Keep pushing for a full ban Mark [and others]…this isnt just a polite exchange of views going on, wildlife is being slaughtered in an institutionalised fashion by criminals with large bank accounts and political influence.

      2. Have I missed this “push” from the RSPB for licensing then? All I’ve heard is a faint mewling in the background. At least Mark Avery is bringing the issue into the spotlight. I think the ban is achievable although may take some time. There’s no political will or money to monitor licensing anyway.

  4. It is good that more “non birding” voices are shouting out in Nidderdale. The recording area for our local club ,Nidderdale Birdwatchers, is the AONB and we are surrounded by grouse moors. Many of us feel pretty frustrated at not being able to do much about the situation. We can of course be extra eyes and ears in the area and we encourage members to be on the lookout for anything amiss and not hesitate to report what does not look right to them.

    1. Yes Pete I know what you mean, its still the same landowners and keepering regimes we had before these statements welcome as they are. We need to see seismic change in the AONB and grouse moors of the Dales before we can relax. Yet it is still only ( Christ did I write only!) 5 years since our last Hen Harrier nesting attempt, although 12 since the last successful one and twenty since a grouse moor Peregrine reared young here. Time for estate owners, managers and keepers to change their wicked ways and to ensure that we need to keep up the pressure!

  5. Call me an old cynic (plenty have!), but I can’t help but feel this outburst of “honesty” is perhaps a prime example of the newly defined “fake honesty”, as the coordination seems highly suspicious to be just coincidence.

  6. For too long our national parks have been hotbeds of wildlife crime – its long overdue that those tasked with managing such areas for UK citizens put an end to this criminality

    1. Our national Park authorities own almost no land within their jurisdiction and thus have only a little more control over what happens on what is essentially private land than we ordinary citizens do. Driven game shooting is perfectly legal ( unfortunately in many ways) so they almost no power to control it.

    2. Don’t forget Regional Parks and other publicly owned land. Two years ago the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park (in Renfrewshire) tried to reintroduce driven grouse shooting on a Hen Harrier SPA within their boundaries. In a joint exercise with a consortium of shooting interests, without consulting the local community or harrier experts, the management fell for the hype that this would create a virtual biodiversity nirvana, by using the consortium’s special insight to “countryside management.” The Park management was in the process of putting together an agreement, but fortunately local campaigners managed to convince the Local Authority that this activity was undesirable on a public recreational resource and harrier SPA. However the management has stated that the project is merely “on hold,” so we are prepared for the possibility of another battle in future.

      1. In the light of this being a Hen Harrier SPA, wouldn’t something along the lines of an environmental impact assessment be appropriate here? Where does SNH figure in this – if at all? From another old cynic!

        1. Sad to say SNH supports grouse shooting and pays large sums of money as “compensation” for a management plan which involved compulsory muirburn and a modest reduction in sheep grazing. A ten-year agreement recently ended, and as far as I’m aware they haven’t renewed the grant because driven grouse shooting has been abandoned (supposedly temporarily). But who knows? Breaches of the heather burning restrictions were broken on several occasions, but neither the Regional Park nor SNH was willing to confront the landowners, apparently for public relations reasons! This is my understanding, but communication between these bodies and the Raptor Study Group have not been as full as I’d have expected.

          1. Correction to my comment above – for “landowners” read tenants. Most of the land is publicly owned, technically by two Local Authorities.

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