RSPB terminates involvement with failed Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative

Following this morning’s blog about how the Moorland Association blocked an official press release about the on-going killing of raptors in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park (see here), the RSPB has just announced that it has terminated all involvement with the failed Bird of Prey Inititative (BoPI).

The RSPB says its reason for leaving the BoPI is the continued refusal of some group members to accept that illegal persecution continues on driven grouse moors within the National Park and that this denial “frustrates any possibility of progress” (see full press statement below).

They’re not wrong. Over a period of six years, the BoPI partnership has proved to be rhetoric rather than reality, repeatedly failing to meet any of the project’s targets. Partnerships can only work if all the partners acknowledge the problem and agree on how to address it. It’s quite obvious from this morning’s blog that the Moorland Association is more interested in maintaining a positive public image than it is with tackling raptor persecution. That also applies to the grouse moor gamekeepers in the Dark Peak, as you’ll see when we blog about their role in this long-running fiasco.

So where does the RSPB’s departure leave the failed BoPI? That remains to be seen. The good news is that the RSPB is developing a new regional project (Upland Skies) and will focus on working with organisations that genuinely want to see improved raptor populations in this National Park, instead of those providing cover for the raptor killers whilst masquerading as conservation partners.

Well done, RSPB!

Photo of an armed gamekeeper close to a decoy hen harrier, filmed on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park in 2016 (see here for details). One of many attempted or confirmed raptor persecution incidents recorded in this area during the Bird of Prey Initiative.


RSPB ends involvement in failed Peak District Bird of Prey Bird of Prey Initiative

The RSPB has ended its involvement with the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative, following the partnership project’s continued failure to improve the fortunes of raptors in the Dark Peak.

Involving five land management and conservation organisations, the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative was set up in 2011 in a bid to boost bird of prey populations in the Dark Peak, the northern part of the Peak District.

In response to low numbers, poor breeding success and illegal persecution of birds of prey, the initiative set five-year targets for healthy sustainable breeding populations of three species- merlin, peregrine and short-eared owl, and from 2016 expanded these targets to include hen harrier and goshawk.

However, the Initiative failed to meet any of these targets and for some species the situation has continued to worsen. Last year, no peregrines successfully bred in the Dark Peak for the first time since 1984.

Richard Barnard, the RSPB’s Area Conservation Manager for Yorkshire and the Peak District, said: “We have committed a lot of time and energy to make this project a success but it’s clear that this is not going to happen. Despite five years of monitoring data, and the presentation of clear evidence from local raptor groups and the RSPB, some members of the group are still failing to acknowledge that the main reason birds of prey are doing so badly in the Dark Peak is because of illegal persecution such as shooting, trapping and poisoning. By refusing to admit the scale of the problem, and its clear link with land used for driven grouse shooting, which is highlighted in numerous studies and reports, these members have frustrated any possibility of progress.”

Bird of prey persecution has cast a shadow over the Dark Peak for many years. The RSPB’s 2006 Peak Malpractice Report and the 2007 Update chronicled numerous confirmed incidents against birds of prey and charted serious declines of several raptor species such as goshawks, which pointed to sustained and widespread persecution in the area. Despite the paucity of birds of prey, illegal activity has continued in the Dark Peak since the formation of the Initiative. For example, in May 2015, a covert camera recorded four shots being fired at an active goshawk nest in the middle of the night in the Derwent Valley. In February 2016, footage was published which showed an armed man crouched close to a plastic hen harrier decoy on a grouse moor, thought to be positioned to lure in a female hen harrier that had been seen the previous day.

Richard continued: “The failure of the Initiative’s voluntary approach by land managers, their representative bodies and statutory organisations to help birds of prey, exemplifies why the RSPB is calling for the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting. Proper regulation would help birds of prey to recover in areas like the Dark Peak and would drive up standards in an industry whose reputation has been severely tarnished in recent years.

Having left the Initiative, we will now be focusing our efforts in the Peak District on working in partnership with like-minded organisations to improve the fortunes of birds of prey through our continuing Investigations work, management of our landholdings, ongoing monitoring and reporting, and the development of Upland Skies, a large-scale people engagement and conservation project aimed at enthusing local people about birds of prey.”

The RSPB is supporting Ed Hutchings’ Government petition to license driven grouse shooting:


UPDATE 25 January 2018: Gamekeepers’ attempts to suppress Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative report (here)

30 thoughts on “RSPB terminates involvement with failed Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative”

  1. So pleased to hear the RSPB has done the honourable thing! The BoPI has now lost all credibility. Incidentally RPUK, I presume you’ve seen the latest GWCT newsletter item on the brood meddling scheme? I have had to abandon submitting comments to them, because they appear to have blocked me after I submitted some uncomfortable truths.

  2. This is excellent news from the RSPB, and I hope that it signals a tougher approach to other failed “partnerships”.

  3. I note that the press release refers to “some members of the group are still failing…”. Members is plural so who else are they referring to? Or are they still pulling punches to avoid referring directly to the Moorland Association?
    Notwithstanding this, this is clearly a welcome move from RSPB who are finally beginning to slowly harden their position. I know only how difficult it is to be stuck between the shifting of public opinion on the one hand and the intransigence of those whom politically one must be seen to be making every effort to engage with on the other. Along with many readers I wish that this change had happened with a tad more alacrity but we must all surely commend RSPB for this Damascene conversion. It looks like a line has been drawn in the sand and I might even renew my subscription now.

  4. Great to see the RSPB come to the party, albeit a little late. It looks like the constant sniping from GWCT et al, and the head-on assault from YFTB, has finally jolted them into remembering what the P and B mean in their name. Well done. I look forward to the next mag openly pushing this rather than sneaking it into a sidebar.

    1. Yes Mike they should – but they won’t !! Too many of our MP’s, and not just Tories, are in the pockets of the country landowners and their allies. It’s one of the many scandals that infect our country – the so called “pillar of democracy”.

  5. I’m pleased to read this, but like many others I think the time has come for the RSPB to take the giant leap and be far more forthright, public and now rally its many members against what is happening in the Peaks and all over the country.
    They deleted a post I made the other day on Facebook. Now they’ve taken a step towards doing what I wanted them to do. Small granted, but significant.

  6. Excellent. Great to see some decisive action from thr RSPB. This is why I pay my subscription! Let’s hope they keep the pressure up…

  7. Cracking reporting and exposing of the realities of MA and PDBPI. Well done again RPUK. We have long known of this approach by the DGS camp but rarely seen such a blatant and cynical example. With such clear evidence the RSPB have been able to act decisively, something we can all applaud as we watch the ripples spread.

  8. Well done RPUK for shaming the RSPB into making a public stand against this scandal. This press release coming so soon after the RPUK blog is telling. Let’s hope the RSPB now step up and really start to publicise the two petitions against grouse shooting.

    1. You under-estimate the RSPB. We didn’t ‘shame’ them in to taking a public stand. Far from it.

      This has been on the cards for some time, given the BoPI’s continued lack of progress. It’s pure coincidence that the RSPB’s announcement was made on the same day we blogged about the Moorland Association’s disruption of the BoPI.

      1. Once again, I want to thank RPUK. You are so diligent, thoughtful, fair and intelligent in the way you present your posts and comments. Thank you so much. It seems to me that you, Mark Avery and Chris Packham have truly transformed the balance of the debate on shooting in recent years. You are all utterly inspiring! Thank you.

        Sorry to the RSPB jumping to false conclusions. I’m pleased to see the RSPB beginning to call out the shooting industry. That will be a huge help.

  9. RSPB stepped back from the HHAP eventually, RSPB not involved in brood meddling (another respected organisation risks reputation through involvement?), RSPB step back from PDBoPI Inevitable, so let’s move on.

    Licencing (yawn, outcome predictable as it’s designed to maintain the status quo) is next? Then how about another push for Vicarious Liability (ok, evidence is needed but there have been convictions)? Maintain the pressure to prevent public funding going to landowners where there has been wildlife crime? Some kind of independent monitoring and assessment for ‘initiatives’ where claims are made about outcomes trelating to BoP?

    First they ignore, then they laugh, then they fight (think we’re at this point) then we win?

    We all have a part to play and we must keep up the momentum. Hats off to RPUK, Mark Avery, raptor workers, celebrities who have received abuse for support of legislative compliance and the many unsung heroes, THANK YOU

  10. I don’t believe the RSPB quitting this Initiative will make any significant difference, it will continue just like the Hen Harrier action plan is continuing. The RSPB could have demanded the release of this statement, failing that it could have published a slightly different version on it’s own website as an update and took the consequences. It is quite clear as usual the Moorland Ass is running the show with it’s little lap dog Natural England in tow, The National Trust won’t ruffle the feathers of it’s new shooting tennents so this little quango will carry on regardless.
    As stated the RSPB first published it’s document “Peak Malpractice” in 2006 for which it was widely criticised in the whole of the shooting press, this latest initiative has been running since 2011, this isn’t just 7 years wasted talking to the representatives of the criminal gangs running amok in our countryside it is now 12 years wasted.
    I find it unbelievable to think for the last 7 years they have sat down and discussed the presence of breeding Raptors with these people, 7 mainly failed breeding seasons been and gone and it takes the blocking of a document before they realised their fellow associates might not be pulling in the same direction.
    We will now see more procrastination from RSPB England, Another venture were they will ask for public support to watch for Raptures whilst they sit back and refuse to fight for them on the legal front. they talk about wanting to license Grouse shooting but have as yet made no visible inroads on this and only now stating they might consider supporting the current petition. RSPB England’s management are a million miles behind their Scottish counterparts and are in need of a good shake up

    1. It is all very well being critical of the RSPB. It is a registered charity with no legal powers. They ought to be able to depend 100% on backing from both Natural England and the law enforcement agencies. It is evident, however, that such support is wanting. This leaves the RSPB in a position where it is powerless to resolve the primary issue – that of the dark side continuing to break the law in its persistent persecution of birds of prey. Faced with Defra/NE’s ridiculous attempts at appeasement of the shooting fraternity, instead of tackling the problem head-on, it would seem that there is little room for manoeuvre. Let us see what ‘Upland Skies’ will bring. Hopefully it will include a massive exercise to educate the public to what is really going on out there!

  11. Although RSPB have walked, the poor results of this initiative shines the light on the criminals and their apologists, the MA. I think the raptor groups may well walk too. I think the rest should work on a new protocol without the MA.

    1. It’s getting ridiculous, almost pantomime! Why don’t the police hold a cosy get together with normal criminal gang leaders, for an eternity, discussing how to reduce crime? They could agree only to rob one bank if two are closer together than 10 km. Is Natural England transforming into Natural Mafia?

      1. I was brought up believing that that is actually how police managed crime, indeed I know of instances where this is definitely the case. The whole police informants business probably involves CID officers meeting a gangland boss at a golf club, the CID and gangster boss decide between them which local kid to throw to the wolves, the police get enhanced conviction rates for very little investigative input on their part and gangster gets his activities overlooked. Win Win and the gullible kids on council estates, especially if they are a pain in the arse, get to go to jail.

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