Invercauld Estate leaves ‘partnership’ following discovery of deliberately poisoned golden eagle

The ramifications from the discovery of a deliberately poisoned golden eagle found on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate this spring are now beginning to show.

Up until yesterday, Invercauld Estate had enjoyed the benefits of a membership of the Eastern Cairngorms Moorland Partnership. This partnership was established in December 2015 and comprised six estates working in ‘partnership’ with the Cairngorms National Park Authority to increase conservation value alongside the estates’ sporting and other interests.

The Partnership’s full statement of purpose can be read here and includes a commitment to enhance raptor conservation.

The estates involved were:

  1. Glenlivet Estate. 2. Glenavon Estate. 3. Mar Lodge Estate (National Trust for Scotland). 4. Invercauld Estate. 5. Mar Estate. 6. Balmoral & Birkhall Estate. (Boundaries sourced from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website).

The Cairngorms National Park Authority issued the following statement yesterday:

Invercauld Estate leaves the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership

The East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership (ECMP) can confirm that Invercauld Estate has left the group, following the discovery of a poisoned golden eagle on their land. The remaining members of ECMP wholly condemn the poisoning, and are committed to working together to prevent incidents like this occurring in future.

The partnership was established between the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) and six local estates in December 2015. The overarching purpose of the partnership is to demonstrate a clear contribution towards the four aims of the National Park, the National Park Partnership Plan and Cairngorms Nature Action Plan, through co-ordinated responsible and sustainable moorland management.

This includes working at a landscape-scale on woodland and scrub expansion, peatland restoration, priority species conservation (including raptors,) and landscape enhancement, whilst integrating grouse moor management with other land use objectives.

The partnership has made good progress on a number of fronts in recent years. This includes expanding woodland cover across the area by 1,500 ha (with plans for between 2,000 and 3,000 ha over the next decade); coordinated monitoring of protected species (including raptors,) to inform a joined-up approach to species conservation; and several hundred hectares of peatland restoration, including mapping areas of deep peat and steep slopes to guide land management activities.

Future programmes will focus on the expansion of scrub habitats and riparian woodlands, alongside further action to restore degraded peat bogs and measures to increase raptor populations across the ECMP partnership area.

The remaining members of ECMP are more committed than ever to delivering the overarching aims of the partnership. Members will continue to encourage the trustees and management of Invercauld Estate to address any issues which have led to the current situation and to take appropriate action.

East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership

(Cairngorms National Park Authority, Mar Lodge Estate, Mar Estate, Balmoral Estate, Glenavon Estate and Glenlivet Estate)


As aways with these things, the statement does not make clear whether Invercauld Estate was dismissed or whether it left of its own accord. We can speculate, of course, and on that basis I’d suggest Invercauld Estate was told to go because by remaining, it would likely bring acute embarrassment to the ‘partnership’, especially if/when NatureScot decides to issue a General Licence restriction on the basis of evidence supplied by Police Scotland of ongoing criminality on this estate.

Many of these so-called ‘partnerships’ are often nothing more than a conservation sham when you look at some of the organisations involved and their appalling track record of raptor persecution. For example the PAW Scotland Raptor Group, the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative, the Heads Up for Hen Harriers project – on and on it goes. It’s very good to see, in this case, that the integrity of the partnership’s conservation values has been put first.

Now what we need to see is the shooting industry and its clients demonstrate the same level of integrity and vote with their wallets and feet.

14 thoughts on “Invercauld Estate leaves ‘partnership’ following discovery of deliberately poisoned golden eagle”

  1. Indeed! And, on & on the organised wildlife crime will go ; along with the still (incredibly!) legal deathly traps & snares continually killing our wildlife all over the countryside , stinkpits , poisons, collusion & corruption … until we see effective & enforceable legislation banning the self-indulgent, sadistic bloodsports of bird shooting. Let’s get rid of these bloodsports for Good NOW.

  2. I would have thought this estate had breached the terms of its receipt of Government subsidy re “cross compliance”? Why should we continue to support these actions; presumably they receive upwards of tens of thousands annually ?

  3. The fact that the Invercauld Estate could be part of the Cairngorm Moorland Partnership perhaps demonstrates why there is a need to reform the current legislation and conservation funding through the various stewardship schemes in order to create a “level playing field” for the game shooting industry.
    At the moment the system seems to allow those estates where criminal activity occurs to have an equal footing with those estates who are genuinely involved in conservation projects.
    This is both unfair as well as potentially putting those estates which employ dubious or illegal methods to create unnaturally high game bird densities at an advantage to those estates which do, as they will be able to offer more shot days or greater bags. This in turn is likely to generate a higher financial return for the estate. This can not be right?
    My understanding of the current system is that any landowner can currently bid for conservation grants and stewardship schemes, and basically estates and landowners are competing against each other for a slice of of the available funding.
    This has to change- so that those estates where the criminal activity is occurring find they can no longer access public funded conservation grants and stewardship schemes.
    I believe it is important to create a transparent system which penalises those estates who are suspected of criminal activity so that they become economically unviable; whilst allowing those estates which work not only lawfully but in accordance with strong ethical conservation and governance practices to succeed and prosper.
    Such a move would serve to reinforce the legislation which protects our wildlife.
    It will be interesting to see whether this forms part of the proposed licensing scheme for DGS.

  4. Expulsion I presume. At least there has been a repercussion.
    Does the Cairngorm Moorland Partnership have a code of practice?

  5. Agree that there’s no doubt the other partnership members have expelled Invercauld. I can’t see any reason why they would leave of their own accord while denying wrongdoing. Like it or not, sporting estates aren’t going to vanish overnight so seeing the other partnership members taking a strong stance like this should be welcomed. It’s a step in the right direction.

    It also suggests that the neighbouring estates believe that this crime was committed by an Invercauld estate employee and don’t believe Invercauld’s attempts to direct the blame towards the tenant farmer or an outside agent. I’ve heard that Invercauld’s relationships with its tenant farmers are not good so I can imagine how well their attempts to direct blame in that direction will have been received.

    Big problem with Invercauld is that the family trust that owns it have effectively sold control of the sporting management to a small number of wealthy families from overseas. The estate employs the gamekeepers, but the keepers know that it is the overseas sporting tenants who provide the estate with the money that pays their wages. Result is the estate manager has limited control over the keepers, who take their lead from what the sporting tenants want. Would be good to shine some light/put some pressure on these wealthy sporting tenants as well as the estate itself. I see one of them is described on the internet as a ‘very private’ family. Perhaps they need less privacy?

  6. Given its dominant position in both size and its location as the geographic (clearly not “moral”) spine of the group, and assuming the other members are genuinely committed to the cause, the outlook still has to be bleak for any wandering eagles, harriers, falcons or hawks.

  7. On the other hand, the expulsion or leaving of their own accord reduces the stress on the others and tempts folk to take their eye off the ball as far as they are concerned. To me this is simply one of many statements from the DGM Lobby and, historically, few have been worth the paper they are printed on.
    From my perspective this might lead to less land being utilised as DGM’s but management techniques remaining the same and, as a consequence of the rationalisation, prices would rise making “Royal Deeside” even more exclusive…. but bad practises continuing and even more tightly protected.

  8. C. wrote, inter alia:-

    “Big problem with Invercauld is that the family trust that owns it have effectively sold control of the sporting management to a small number of wealthy families from overseas.”

    I suspect that most people who care for our land and wildlife would raise their hackles at the thought of that stitch up.

    Guess who wrote this :-

    “We will improve Scotland’s system of land ownership, use, rights and responsibilities, so that our land can contribute to a fair and just society while balancing public and private interests.”

    It only takes a few seconds thought to see through that gibberish and realise that it is possible to argue that such a statement could be used to justify the current toxic arrangement.

  9. Interesting. I hope it will make a difference, and if it does I will heartily applaud it.
    What also interests me is the note that the shooting interests have been sold outwith the British Isles. Is there some way of bringing them back into the fold, so to speak, or is it going to be negotiations with each family who owns a bit of Invercauld’s Shoots?

  10. Anyone interested in the overseas ownership of shooting rights at Invercauld might be interested in googling ‘Gairnshiel Lodge’ and having a look at their glossy website. This makes clear that the proprietors, a Belgian family, have the shooting rights over the 20,000 acre Gairnshiel and Micras moors. Now, I don’t know exactly where the poisoned Golden Eagle was found, but the area identified in earlier posts on this website as the probable location is part of the Micras moor.

    If the poisoning did indeed take place on the land that is supposedly under their care, it would be interesting to know what the very private Belgian family (who prefer to be known just by their first names Eric, Hilde, Maarten and Quinten, according to a website article about their lodge renovation at think and whether they have concerns about the way the land is managed. Anyone who wants to pay to manage large parts of our national parks for their own interests should be answerable for the way that land is managed.

  11. I looked at the remodelista site and it seems sinister that Eric, Hilde, Maarten and Quinten only disclose their christian names. Why the need for secrecy? One clue could be the fact they say, “The family divide their time between Antwerp and The Lodge”. It could be that they are trying to claim they are non resident in the UK for tax purposes. [Ed: rest of comment deleted]

  12. 4th para. ‘The partnership has made good progress……’. I wonder how much of this progress is down to the Mar Lodge Estate and what the contribution has been from the other estates, does anyone know?

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