Laughable statement from SGA on missing satellite-tagged hen harriers

Following Tuesday’s news that three more satellite-tagged hen harriers have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances (here), the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has issued a statement about the two that vanished in Scotland (one in the Angus Glens and one near Moffat).

So according to the SGA, these suspicious disappearances ‘merit further, independent, investigation‘. Note the use of the word ‘independent’. Does the SGA not accept these harriers have disappeared in suspicious circumstances? Does the SGA not consider Police Scotland’s investigation ‘independent’? Police Scotland will have had full access to the satellite tag data to make an independent assessment of whether the harrier’s disappearance was suspicious or not, and presumably the Police agreed with the RSPB that the disappearance was indeed suspicious, not least because the circumstances mirrored the circumstances of 41 sat-tagged golden eagles, revealed by a Government-commissioned independent report to have disappeared in suspicious circumstances, several of them in, er, the Angus Glens:

The SGA statement looks like the usual well-rehearsed dig at the RSPB – indeed ex-SGA Director Bert Burnett wrote on social media in reference to the hen harrier that vanished in the Angus Glens: “I think I’m justified in claiming that the area was searched by people involved in the tagging and the bird was found and as it died naturally and was of no publicity value it was secreted away”.

Is he seriously suggesting the RSPB have perverted the course of justice? That’s a very serious allegation. Is this view shared by the SGA?

The official SGA statement also states: ‘There has been a commitment in Angus over the last few years to changing past reputations‘ (and therefore by inference this hen harrier couldn’t possible have been illegally killed).

We’re very interested in this phrase, ‘commitment to changing past reputations’. What does that mean, exactly? Does it mean the SGA is finally acknowledging that gamekeepers in the Angus Glens have been involved in illegal raptor persecution? If that is what the SGA means, perhaps it could elaborate on which raptor persecution incidents it now accepts had gamekeeper involvement? We’d be fascinated to know, because for as long as we’ve been writing this blog the SGA has consistently denied the extent of raptor persecution on grouse moors in the Angus Glens, despite all the evidence to the contrary (see here for an extensive list of raptor persecution incidents uncovered in the Angus Glens).

A classic example of SGA denial was the case of the sat-tagged golden eagle that was caught in a spring trap on an Angus Glens grouse moor in 2012, suffering two broken legs. The eagle was then driven through the night to be dumped in a Deeside layby where it lay in agony for a further four days before it died. Despite being given access to the eagle’s sat tag data and the findings of the official post-mortem report, the SGA concocted the most far-fetched explanation possible for this eagle’s injuries – see here.

Here is that dead golden eagle [photo by RSPB Scotland]

The other interesting part of the SGA’s official statement was this: ‘We know talks have been held between sporting estates regarding translocating a pair of breeding harriers…..‘. Talk, as they say, is cheap. There should be no need to translocate hen harriers to the Angus Glens. We know, thanks to satellite tag data, that young hen harriers regularly visit the Angus Glens – and why wouldn’t they? The habitat is good, there’s a plentiful food supply, and there aren’t any resident territorial adults to chase them away. And this last bit is the telling part. Not one successful hen harrier breeding attempt in the Angus Glens since 2006. Why is that? It’s pretty obvious.

The estates also presumably know that there isn’t a cat in hell’s chance that anyone would authorise the translocation of hen harriers to the Angus Glens. The golden rule, as laid out by the IUCN, is that translocations can only take place if the cause of the species’ decline has been identified and rectified. We know what the cause is, and we also know that it hasn’t been addressed.

The estates can talk about their supposed desire to undertake translocations all they want (and they will because they think it makes them look like conservationists) but as long as these satellite-tagged raptors keep ‘disappearing’ in the area, and for as long as the breeding territories remain suspiciously vacant, their words are hollow.

13 thoughts on “Laughable statement from SGA on missing satellite-tagged hen harriers”

  1. The SGA say there was a breeding attempt last year. You say there have been no successful breeding attempts since 2006. Do we know what happened to last year’s attempt?

  2. I can’t help but feel dismayed, angry and deep sorrow every time I read one of these reports. The cruelty and callousness is startling. I’m ashamed also that people can act like this as a species.

  3. Are you sure that translocation is off the agenda. The estates don’t think so.
    SNH are now so deeply into supporting the estates, it may happen. As a trial, they think they can ignore the legalities of translocation. Nick Halfhide, Director of Sustainable Development for SNH, is quoted as saying:
    ” The hard science, the experience of people on the ground, the conservation bodies, the public sector, to agree the way forward and one of the things that that agreed was we did need to do more trials to see what happens and we can learn from that as well as continuing with the hard science, the hard evidence gathering.”
    I’m not sure that SNH could not legally conduct a trial.
    Anyway, they need to replace the Hen Harriers that seem to be killed with impunity, if they wish to show that they are the true conservationists. I’m sure SNH as it is at present, agree with that and with the concept of a translocation trial.

    1. You’re right in that we wouldn’t put anything past SNH right now. However, if a translocation was to be seriously considered, it would be met with robust legal challenge, be assured of that.

    2. Well, yes, like the Raven licence trial. they can approve such a thing, but it wouldn’t be legally compliant (like the Raven cull). If the estates want to show how conservation minded they are why don’t they just let the Harriers (and Eagles and peregrines) that find their way there naturally settle down? They’d still have a their (apparently desired) population, but it would be fully legal. Who knows, they may actually claw some reputation back too.

  4. The convoluted fact-free “logic” to which some people indulge to deny the obvious, that birds of prey are being illegally killed on grouse moors (and elsewhere), is nowhere better illustrated than by Bert Burnett’s comment that he feels “…. justified in claiming that the area was searched by people involved in the tagging and the bird was found and as it died naturally and was of no publicity value it was secreted away”. There is, of course, absolutely no evidence for this claim yet he denies the widespread persecution of raptors by shooting interests for which there is overwhelming evidence. It really makes you wonder how much lead these people have ingested over the years …..

  5. After reading Burnett’s attempt to muddy the waters in regard to the Eagles demise on Deeside (2012) my observation would be that to question the gullibility and knowledge of the uplands. It appears both simplistic and infantile but, dare I say it, worthy of a retired gamekeeper who had spent his career in the Angus Glens, all the time pleasing his employers while betraying the majority of his fellow citizens. It becomes increasingly clear that there is no point in communicating with these people, or their overlords, because all faith in what position they take or what they may promise, has gone. Put bluntly, if Burnett told someone that the sky was blue it would be pertinenent for them to go outside and glance toward the heavens simply to make sure that the window had not been painted blue in order to promote a false agenda.
    It would seem pertinent to bye pass the grouse lobby and the majority of politicans while taking the facts straight to the public who are being deprived of their heritage by the actions of this cabal.
    One can see the difference that this site has made to publicising these issues and the increased support that has been garnered. Lets support in their campaign.

    1. The SGA are a collection of clowns – that has always been and probably will always be the case. What is a game changer is SNH getting into bed with them and pedaling their destructive and sinister agenda

  6. Its well overdue that this disgusting hobby is put to bed for good.
    How can anyone justify driven grouse shooting when 30% of all life on this planet is predicted to become extinct in the next 50 years.

  7. Interesting little Facebook community group exchange with a lad called Brian Smith after I joined others welcoming the unassisted return of Red Kite to the area around my childhood home town of Kirriemuir in Angus (The Gateway to the Glens), while expressing the hope that they avoid the poison, traps and guns – I made no reference to who might use such methods of killing. I have used his name as he states he is one of the good guys. I’ve copied the OP and the comments from myself and Mr Smith below.

    Mark Kerr Pretty sure ive just seen a red kite above kirrie hill while out walking … anyone else seen them in the area ?

    Brian Smith There is a few about the area just now mark , the tail is a distinctive fork shape and it has a slow wing beat

    Ralph Barnett Quite a few spreading into Angus. Hope they avoid the poison, traps and guns.

    Brian Smith Bit of a generalisation there Ralph Barnett! I personally as a law abiding keeper resent your comment !

    Ralph Barnett Good stuff Brian. Didn’t mention gamies but nice to know at least one of you is law abiding. Any word on that hen harrier yet?

    Brian Smith There is more than just me sticking to the rules , why do you think there is an abundance of raptors in the glens now ?

    Ralph Barnett Excellent. I hope you and the other good guys and gals also go that extra mile and anonymously report those who you must know flout the law to the appropriate authorities.

    The exchange confirms that at least one keeper in Angus is aware of the return of the Red Kites and Mr Smith confirms that he and some others are “sticking to the rules”. That suggests to me that he is aware of some who are not. He has not responded to my suggestion he and the other good guys finger their less law-abiding fellow keepers. I am unsure what to make of his claim of an abundance of raptors in the glens…

  8. What a stupid statement ” there are very few full -time gamekeepers in the Moffat area for us to make inquiries ”
    Yeh what about the part timers and the nutter who lives not too far away in xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (allegedly) are you trying to tell me he isn’t willing to travel a few miles down the road ( allegedly) to add another wild life killing to his list. Same as the idiots in xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.See they have nothing better to do with their time than driving about keeping their eyes to the sky and if they see a Raptor they will go out their road to track it down, kill it, get rid of it and any satellite tag or identification that may be attached to it. So do they keep all this to themselves?
    I say no, They share this info. In past investigations has the Police seized mobile phones for further enquirers have they looked into the bank accounts of the game keepers or other hired hands of the Estate management.
    And I would suggest they also look at this blog to see the comments regarding their disgusting actions.

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