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 PRESS STATEMENT
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)