It’s fair to say that there has been public uproar at the news that yet another eagle has been found illegally killed in Scotland, this time a young sea eagle, found poisoned on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park (see here). The police have not named the estate on which the poisoned corpse was found, nor the name of the banned pesticide used to kill this eagle.
Some of that public outrage has been from people who previously had no idea that such filthy, barbaric crimes are still taking place in the 21st Century, whilst others are infuriated that this keeps happening and yet time and time and time again the Scottish Government keeps dodging the opportunity to act.
To many of us, it’s no longer a shock to learn that an eagle has been found illegally killed on a grouse moor. And in this particular case, it’s certainly no surprise to learn of the location.
The Strathdon area of the Cairngorms National Park has long been recognised as a raptor persecution hotspot, as this map demonstrates. These are raptor persecution incidents, 2005-2018, including cases recorded by the RSPB, incidents featured in the golden eagle satellite tag review, and other data in the public domain. Geographic clusters are clear to see – in the Angus Glens to the SE of the National Park, in the Strathdon area in the NE (circled), and in the Monadhliaths to the NW of the National Park:
Those incidents in Strathdon include a poisoned raven (2006), a poisoned common gull (2006), multiple poisoned baits (2006), a shot buzzard (2009), a poisoned golden eagle (2011), a poisoned buzzard (2011), poisoned bait (2011), a shot short-eared owl (2011), two satellite-tagged golden eagles ‘disappearing’ (2011), another satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappearing’ (2013), a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘disappearing’ (2014), a goshawk nest shot out by masked men (2014), a shot goshawk (2016), another satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappearing’ (2017), a satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappearing’ (2018), another satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappearing’ (2019), and another satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappearing’ (2020).
It’s quite the persecution hotspot, isn’t it?
Nobody has been prosecuted in any of these cases.
If you want to see the full shocking list of reported raptor persecution incidents inside the Cairngorms National Park, the supposed ‘jewel in the crown’ of Scotland’s wildlife areas, see here. Take note again of the lack of prosecutions.
Strathdon was also identified as a golden eagle persecution hotspot in the 2017 Government-commissioned report on the fates of satellite-tracked golden eagles in Scotland. You can read that report here.
With the illegal poisoning of this latest white-tailed eagle we now know that seven eagles have either been illegally killed or have vanished in suspicious circumstances in this area (4 x ‘missing’ golden eagles, 1 x ‘missing white-tailed eagle, 1 x poisoned golden eagle, 1 x poisoned white-tailed eagle), as well as three satellite-tagged hen harriers that have vanished in suspicious circumstances since the golden eagle report was published.
Many new blog readers have been surprised to learn that not only have there been zero prosecutions for raptor crime dating back for years in this part of the National Park, but that managing grouse moors for shooting is not a licensed activity. Comments from newcomers on social media immediately call for ‘licences to be revoked’ because they assume that a relatively progressive country like Scotland will have all this stuff regulated and under control. It’s been a shock for them to find out that in parts of Scotland it’s the armed criminals in control, brazenly and repeatedly sticking up two fingers to the law-makers and the rest of society.
Newcomers also ask why there hasn’t been any targeted action in these known persecution hotspots? It’s not like nobody knows what’s been going on there! It’s a good question – what is the point of all this mapping and recording and reporting if the bleedin’ obvious is still allowed to continue, uninhibited, unrestricted and unpunished?
The Scottish Government did implement a farcical trial scheme of having a bunch of part-time volunteer special constables deployed in the National Park in 2018, to focus on tackling wildlife crime. Despite the undoubted good intentions of those volunteers, the scheme was a predictable waste of time and money (see here) and simply a can-kicking exercise so the Government could pretend it was doing something tangible to tackle these crimes.
And so here we are again. Yet another victim, on yet another grouse moor, in yet another National Park.
And yet again, the Scottish Government has remained silent.
It’s important that we don’t.
If you haven’t already done so, please consider sending an email to the First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon) and her Environment Cabinet Secretary (Roseanna Cunningham) to express your strength of feeling that this disgraceful criminality has been allowed to continue for far too long. The Government must be held to account for its inaction.
You don’t need to be resident in Scotland to email these politicians. In fact, the more correspondence from outside of Scotland, all the better to demonstrate the extent of the country’s embarrassing reputation. Please be polite.
To email Nicola Sturgeon, please use this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
To email Roseanna Cunningham, please use this address: CabSecECCLR@gov.scot
It’s clear that many of you have already written to them. Thank you.
UPDATE 29 July 2020: Poisoned sea eagle: inadequate response from Scottish Government (here)