Parliamentary questions on poisoned peregrine in Pentland Hills

Earlier this month we blogged about the discovery of a dead peregrine in the Pentland Hills Regional Park just south of Edinburgh (see here). The dead adult male, part of a breeding pair, had been found in May and toxicology results confirmed he had been killed with a highly toxic banned poison, capable of killing a human.

[Photo of poisoned peregrine found dead next to footpath]

There was widespread concern that Police Scotland hadn’t bothered to mention this illegal poisoning incident for many months (not until prompted to do so by us). Given the toxicity of the posion and the frequency with which the public use the footpath where the poisoned bird was found, this silence was unacceptable.

The illegal killing of the peregrine is just the latest in a growing list of wildlife crime incidents uncovered close to grouse moors in the Pentland Hills. In addition to the poisoned peregrine and the subsequent disappearance of its mate and chicks in the nest, other incidents include a raven that was found shot dead on its nest, a merlin’s nest that had been shot out, and a satellite-tagged golden eagle (Fred) who had ‘disappeared‘ in highly suspicious circumstances.

It could be argued that there is political gain to be had from keeping quiet, especially at a time when the Scottish Government-supported South Scotland Golden Eagle Project is underway and project partners SNH are keen to pretend that raptor persecution “is no longer an issue” in the area, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

In addition to the incidents in the Pentland Hills, elsewhere in south Scotland there’s Raeshaw Estate, currently operating under a General Licence restriction and an Individual Licence restriction, due to evidence of alleged ongoing raptor persecution (here); there’s a forthcoming prosecution of a gamekeeper in the Borders for a long list of alleged wildlife crime (here); there’s the land managed for driven grouse shooting in South Lanarkshire (close to the golden eagle translocation area) where over 50 confirmed reported incidents of dead raptors and poisoned baits have been recorded since 2003, including a shot golden eagle in 2012 (it didn’t survive, here), the reported shooting of a short-eared owl in 2017 (here), the reported shooting of a hen harrier in 2017 (here), and the reported shooting of a buzzard in 2018 (here); and then there’s been at least four raptor poisonings in south Scotland this year alone (here), five if you include the Pentlands peregrine.

Fortunately not all MSPs are content to remain silent on this issue. Alison Johnstone MSP (Scottish Greens) spoke out earlier this month when news broke of the poisoned peregrine, stating that she would be asking questions of the Scottish Government’s failure to protect birds of prey (see here). She’s as good as her word. Alison has since lodged several Parliamentary questions as follows:

S5W-19574: To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the reported recent cases of illegal raptor persecution, what action it is taking to address wildlife crime in the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

S5W-19575: To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the risk to (a) the public and (b) wildlife of the use of banned poisons in the countryside, and what action it is taking to address this issue.

S5W-19576: To ask the Scottish Government, in light of it attracting an estimated 600,000 visitors annually, what its response is to reports that the public was not advised about the presence of a highly toxic banned poison in the Pentland Hills Regional Park

Expected answer date for all three questions is 7 November 2018.

Well done, Alison, and thank you.

10 thoughts on “Parliamentary questions on poisoned peregrine in Pentland Hills”

  1. It amazes me that RPUK appears mildly sceptical in relation to the Golden Eagle project and yet, in contrast, openly hostile to the proposed southern England Hen Harrier reintroduction. As an individual bird awaiting release I’d much rather take my chances as a HH in southern England.

    1. Yes Ian, we’re well aware of your support for the proposed reintro of HH to southern England as you’ve regularly posted your views on Mark Avery’s blog.

      In our view the two projects are incomparable. In Scotland, the Gov has acknowledged that persecution is a serious ongoing issue and is in the (long drawn out process) of addressing it. In England, the Gov is in complete denial that there’s even an issue and thinks that reintroducing HH to southern England will solve the problem. It won’t.

      It’s not that we’re unsupportive of the reintro/translocation of golden eagles to south Scotland – of course we want to see this species flourish right across its range. What we object to is SNH’s continued pretence that everything’s ok when clearly it isn’t.

      1. One of the reasons why (as I understand it) you object to the HH project is because the birds might fly off to the uplands and end up being killed. Yet the GEs in southern Scotland wont have to fly anywhere to risk exactly the same fate. To borrow your line above, some people think that releasing GEs in southern Scotland will solve the problem. It won’t – will it?

  2. Isnt the main difference here the fact that the GE release has gone ahead with birds already released so there’s not much point moaning about it now?..[if there was you certainly would be hearing such as me, moaning very loudly]…and we must now hope for a miracle and see all of these birds survive and flourish. While the South England HH idea is still being argued?

    1. Hi Dave – That’s a difference but it’s not the main one. The GE project was not opposed in the way that the southern England HH project has been, even before it got underway. The HH project has received open hostility for two main stated reasons. Firstly, some birds may head to the uplands and be killed. Secondly, it is seen as unnecessary – all that needs to happen, so the argument goes, is that persecution needs to be tackled and a reintroduction wont then be needed. Both these arguments apply equally, if not more so, to the GE project. As suggested in the responses above, perhaps the difference in treatment is also down to the different political landscapes in Scotland and England. If so, that’s fair enough, though personally I would prefer projects to be judged primarily on the conservation benefits to the species involved rather than the political background. The HH project could achieve considerable benefits for HHs because it could establish a new population in the lowlands well away from the intensive persecution of the grouse moors. The same benefits do not apply to the GE project.

  3. The Golden Eagle ‘reintroduction’ to South Scotland is, to me anyway, no more than a gimmick on behalf of SNH. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see these birds flourish again throughout the country, but the answer to that is to remove the twin cancers of grouse shooting and gamekeepers from our lands. If that was taken care of effectively, and hill sheep farmers tamed, it might be surprising how quickly the eagles return naturally. It pains me to say this, but isn’t it clear for for all to see that SNH is slightly in awe of their big brothers within the civil service, not to mention the middle and upper classes who own vast tracts of land, which they believe is god-given to them to use as political and socialite playgrounds? Their favourite form of play is slaughtering not only the grouse themselves, but any natural predator that dares to prey upon their potshot target species. How ironic that our natural heritage is under threat… and seemingly aided partly by our very own Scottish Natural Heritage! I could expand, but won’t while I’m this angry.

    1. Am no expert but can also see no light in this tunnel of wildlife persecution until grouseshooting and the gamekeeping industry is no more in Scotland. just been reading an account written back in 1890’s from a local to Langholm Moor , saying nobody could remember so much as a penny coming to their village from the shooting parties and the landowner who had denied the locals so much, and lamenting the disappearance of so many once familiar types of birds even then.
      Are you aware that allowing shooting of woodcock is being promoted as a means of making some money for aspiring crofters with a bit of woodland, on Scottish Crofting Federation intro weekends. It won’t come as a surprise that the speaker making the suggestion is ex SNH employee

      1. I also heard that about the Woodcock shooting recommendation, Carol. I found the whole concept disgraceful and repugnant. And what was the RSPB’s response? Absolutely nothing that I’ve seen. When will they ever decide to change that clause in their Royal Charter which inhibits them from criticising game shooting as a sport for an indulgent, possibly psychopathic element of rich people?

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