South Scotland golden eagle project gets final go-ahead

The South Scotland Golden Eagle Project, which proposes to translocate eaglets from the Highlands to southern Scotland in an effort to boost the tiny remnant population in the Borders & Dumfries & Galloway, has finally been given the funds and licence to begin.

Earlier this year the project was awarded £1.3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (see here) and has now received match funding of £158,024 from local LEADER programmes. SNH has also now granted the licence required to move the eagles, fit them with satellite tags and release them in the Moffat Hills.

[Photo of a young satellite-tagged golden eagle, by Ruth Tingay]

This additional funding has triggered the recruitment of four new project staff – an eagle officer, two community engagement officers, and one stakeholder engagement officer. Details of these positions and how to apply can be found on the Project website here (scroll to the bottom of the homepage). Closing date is 12 January 2018.

As an aside, can we just congratulate the Project team on their website – full of information & official reports, keeping the public informed about the proposed Project. Take note, Natural England!

A press release (unfortunately with far too many naff metaphors) from the Project has been picked up by various media outlets (e.g. BBC News here, Scotsman here) although the Guardian has taken a different angle and focuses on the threat these birds might face if they fly south of the border in to northern England (here).

We’ve blogged about this Project before (see here, here) and have mixed feelings. Unsurprisingly our biggest concern is the on-going threat of illegal persecution, both north and south of the border. To date, nobody has EVER been successfully prosecuted for the illegal killing of golden eagles, despite plenty of opportunities (e.g. see here and here).

Dr Cat Barlow, the South Scotland Golden Eagle Project Manager, has been questioned about the threat of illegal persecution at several conferences where she has delivered an otherwise strong presentation about the Project. On each occasion she has acknowledged the threat and has recognised that not all estates in southern Scotland are supportive of this translocation. She recently told a conference in Edinburgh that she “will be talking to the estates not yet on board“.

It’s going to take more than a chat to stop these deranged raptor killers in their tracks.

[Photo of an adult golden eagle found shot & critically injured on a grouse moor in south Scotland in 2012. He didn’t make it]

22 thoughts on “South Scotland golden eagle project gets final go-ahead”

  1. Lets hope this includes the translocation of gamekeepers and shepherds to distant parts, if not they will have the same problem as everywhere else in Scotland.

  2. I am obviously missing something here because everybody seems to be wetting themselves with excitement but isn’t this the same as the introduction of HH to S England? We should be concentrating time and money on sorting out the on going problems we have in the N . As it stands there is a very good chance they will simply get sucked into the Angus glens and disappear. Also they will be as welcome in the borders as a fart in a space suit , I hear the alpha bottles getting cracked open as I speak.

  3. What estates were against this and what were their given reasons? One of our noisy ex gamekeepers has sounded off in the past that the eagles in this project would fail due to lack of food, but given the large area of grouse moor in the southern uplands which is supposedly heaving with wildlife this is a strange and somewhat contradictory claim. They don’t make much effort to hide their visceral hatred of anything with a hooked beak do they?

    1. “What estates were against this and what were their given reasons”
      Yup, name and shame them. I know this blog likes to tread on the safe side with naming the usual suspects, making us all the more reliant on whisper networks and names of the people who know the names to know and avoid, but surely in this case just giving the factual information of the estates suspected as being against having birds of prey around, there is no problem with that?

      1. I think you do this site a huge disservice in saying “this blog likes to tread on the safe side with naming…” etc. Im quite sure they would love to publish all names involved but the legal threat to the site is a very real one…and is continuous…

  4. A great shame, this project has even got off the ground, so to speak, well intentioned people trying to ignore reality. Comes back to the same issue, again and again, find and prosecute those game keepers and their employers who are continually killing raptors in the uplands of Scotland and England. The last episode of Black Adder comes to mind, why go over the top when you know the machine guns are still firing!!. A total waste of these beautiful raptor’s lives.

    1. Farmers too, don’t forget that the farming -particularly sheep farm, or is it subsidy farming- community has the same pathological hatred of anything with curved beak and talons as the grouse shooting mob.

      1. Cant agree with that about sheep farmers crypticmirror – they were always very mixed in their views on eagles across Scotland, Ive met many who were extremely protective. If you look at the big recent increases in eagles, in the north and west [particularly the Western Isles] which is sheep country, you can clearly see a change in opinions and actions. Not to say you might not get a “rogue” shepherd but the comparison with keepers on grouse moors is one of the best pieces of evidence against the grouse industry.

        1. Yes, i live on a sheep farm whose owners are very proud of the Golden Eagles on their land.
          Even the farmers who do hate eagles don’t have the same belief in self-entitled law-breaking as the criminals of driven grouse moors. The exceptions are rare.

        2. Farmers maybe not target Golden Eagles but they become collateral damage when corvids are targetted with poisoned bate. Nearly 60 young Golden Eagles from the Scottish Highlands died in the Irish translocation and the survivors struggle to rear young because of shortage of food. This new project has completely ignored the IUCN guide lines on translocation, ignoring all the possible issues that were highlighted by SNH in their report. If people on this site actually care about eagles being killed then stop whinning and start writing to MSP’s and the Heritage Lottery Fund about this project being licensed when the IUCN guide lines have been ignored.

  5. These re-introduction projects are castles in the sand until driven grouse shooting is banned or effectively licensed. The sacrifice these birds will make may strengthen public opinion against the nasty brigade but that’s a big price for them.

  6. great idea, let them get killed in southern Scotland instead! why not reintroduce them in wales, the lake district or Northumberland where their are already a few ?

  7. Perhaps there’s not a whole lot to be optimistic about – the fact is, and I’m not sure this is in any way a comfort, the number of eagles will have been released at questionable cost and that will be readily calculated to a cost per bird released, and ultimately a value, and a high value at that.

    Would this, and the likely publicity be enough to keep them safe ? – possibly not, but it could help. They surely will be constantly monitored and with the local contributions, support, and feet on the ground, it may just turn out well.

    Those involved will have ready access to publicity from the outset because of the type of project, and wont be ignored when something has to be said during it.

    Whatever the outcome, the reluctant estates will find themselves in the spotlight at points during the project when they least want it – that will be uncomfortable for them. It just might turn out to be a game changer elsewhere.

  8. Like RPUK I have mixed feelings about this and no it is not the same as the Hen Harrier southern” reintroduction” into what is clearly Montagu’s Harrier country. There are Eagles there just not enough. The persecution risks concern me in south Scotland and into England , oh how I would dearly love Eagles back in England. Even with those misgivings I wish the project well, it is not a smokescreen project to divert attention.
    Back 50 to 25 years ago when young Eagles regularly wintered in the Nidderdale AONB I can well remember having a conversation with a local keeper who I knew well ( the same who didn’t want his Buzzards shot ina pheasant drive) he remarked that the reason Eagles were restricted to one pair in the Lakes ( although at least one of our winterers was Northumberland bred) WAs because the foolish youngsters came to North Yorkshire grouse moors for the winter and rarely survived the experience. He has sadly been dead 20 years but I hope what he said could no longer be true but I’m not convinced.

  9. Lovely as the idea is I’m afraid we must learn to look after the raptors we already have before trying to increase biodiversity. to put in bluntly once south of the Tweed the are on death row.

  10. Maybe one problem is that they look so like Pheasants when they fly out of trees………..such a mistake would only cost about £500

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