A satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle has ‘disappeared’ on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park.
Apparently its last tag signal came from a roost wood close to the River Dee, near to Braemar, on Saturday.
[Map showing Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park. Estate boundary sourced from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website]
There are scant details at the moment, other than an article published on the BBC news website (here) where the reader is told that Invercauld Estate (intensively-managed for driven grouse shooting) is ‘committed to conservation’, and that its gamekeepers were ‘working hard’ to find the missing eagle ‘in case there has been a technical malfunction of the tag and the eagle returns to roost again’.
Interestingly, there hasn’t been any press statement from the RSPB or Police Scotland, so we don’t know whether a police-led search has already taken place or whether any other investigative leads are/were being followed. It looks very much like Invercauld Estate has jumped the gun on this news, issuing its own press release in what appears to be a damage-limitation exercise. If that’s the case, it would be a clear breach of the Partnership for Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland media protocol.
Funnily enough, a similar thing happened a couple of weeks ago following the suspicious disappearance of another sat-tagged sea eagle (Blue X) in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire, when the Scottish Gamekeepers Association published a press statement while the police search was still underway – again, a clear breach of the PAW Scotland protocol.
What the estate / BBC article didn’t mention was how the disappearance of this latest satellite-tagged eagle fits the pattern of 45+ other cases where satellite-tagged eagles have disappeared in suspicious circumstances on or close to a driven grouse moor, and in areas where other raptor persecution incidents have been recorded, as reported in the Scottish Goverment’s Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review published last year:
We’ve blogged about Invercauld Estate and the wider area of Deeside many times before –
There was the discovery of an illegally shot peregrine at the Pass of Ballater in 2011, the reported coordinated hunt and subsequent shooting of an adult hen harrier at Glen Gairn on the border of Invercauld and Dinnet Estates in 2013, and then there were the illegally-set traps that were found nr Geallaig Hill on Invercauld Estate in 2016, which resulted in ‘secret action‘ being taken against a gamekeeper but no prosecution followed, and nor has SNH imposed a General Licence restriction for this incident (and SNH has refused to discuss its decision saying ‘it’s not in the public interest‘ to tell us). Last year satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Calluna’ disappeared in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in this area (here), although it’s not clear whether this was on Invercauld Estate or neighbouring Dinnet Estate.
This part of the Cairngorms National Park is identified as a wildlife crime hotspot, but not to worry, the Scottish Government has it in hand. It recently launched a pilot scheme deploying five police special constables (i.e. part-time volunteers) in the Cairngorms National Park, tasked with addressing wildlife crime (see here). What a joke.
Illegal raptor persecution is out of control and the Scottish Government needs to act, now. No more procrastination, no more excuses, no more chances.
We’ll be blogging more about the missing white-tailed eagle later today when more details become available.
UPDATE 16.30hrs: RSPB Scotland statement:
UPDATE 12 May 2018: Article in The National: ‘Gamekeepers and RSPB at loggerheads over sea eagle’s disappearance’ (here)
UPDATE 15 May 2018: Missing sea eagle Blue T: statement from Cairngorms National Park Authority (here)