Expert witness for the prosecution of gamekeeper Rhys Davies brands Millden Estate a “wildlife sink”

An expert witness whose evidence was used in the successful prosecution of gamekeeper Rhys Owen Davies has branded Millden Estate a “wildlife sink“, according to an article in The Daily Record.

Mammal ecologist Andy Riches provided an expert report for the Scottish SPCA based on a number of surveys and visits to Millden Estate.

His report summary reads as follows:

The ecology of this area of land has been driven out of balance by its management. The direct effects of this have been outlined above but there is an indirect effect as well. By reducing the numbers of ‘prey’ species the management greatly increases the risk to the game birds from ‘predatory’ species. In the absence of adequate natural prey game birds are the principal available source of food. Because much of the neighbouring land (including the Cairngorms National Park) is wildlife rich this estate acts as a ‘wildlife sink’. Population pressure and natural inquisitiveness encourages wildlife to try to explore this area. Those that make it in will rarely leave alive. Land mammals are mostly either successfully excluded by fencing or killed by trapping or shooting. Birds are the only group that can regularly successfully cross the fencing. They find an area with extremely limited prey apart from the game birds.
I can best describe this estate as a zoo with three compounds. Each one is excellently managed for the species it was intended to contain but to the total exclusion of everything else‘.

This summary will come as no surprise to anyone who has read the report I co-authored with Andy Wightman for the REVIVE coalition in 2018 about the increased intensity of grouse moor management in Scotland, a report in which Millden Estate featured. This increase in management intensity has occurred in the last decade or so because the so-called ‘success’ of a grouse moor (and its economic value) is measured by the number of red grouse shot each season (known as the ‘bag size’).

This photograph was posted on social media in October 2017 and was labelled ‘Team Millden’. It shows Millden Estate gamekeepers, including someone bearing a strong resemblance to Rhys Owen Davies, posing with a lot of dead red grouse that presumably had been shot on the estate.

But as regular blog readers will know, in order to produce artificially-high densities of red grouse for shooting, other species on the moor are ruthlessly and systematically killed. Much of this killing is lawful.

The intensity of moorland management at Millden Estate was further exposed in another report by REVIVE, this one commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports and published in 2020.

Hanged By the Feet Until Dead‘ was a report analysing the extent of lawful traps and snares that had been recorded during a field survey of a number of Scottish moorland estates between June 2018 and September 2019, including Millden Estate.

The findings on Millden Estate were damning.

This image shows the extent of the legal traps and snares across the estate and the table below documents the data produced from the field surveys:

There’s a good quote at the end of the ‘wildlife sink’ article in the Daily Record, provided by Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports (Scotland) and a partner in the REVIVE coalition:

The case of [Millden Estate gamekeeper] Rhys Davies is utterly appalling but if any positives can be drawn from it, it’s the scrutiny this estate and others will now be under, making the Scottish Government’s proposed licensing of grouse moors even more timely and necessary.

There’s also a quote from an unnamed spokesman for Millden Estate:

The estate does not condone or tolerate any illegal activity relating to the welfare of animals or wildlife. We were shocked to learn of all the allegations when they came to light“.

I’ll be blogging about this statement shortly.

10 thoughts on “Expert witness for the prosecution of gamekeeper Rhys Davies brands Millden Estate a “wildlife sink””

  1. This is truly shocking, disgusting and shames Scotland.

    It is Mairi.Gougeon.msp@parliament.scot
    constituency. Given her position and interests in wildlife was she aware of the activities on this and other estates in the Angus Glen’s. This whole area is being systematically stripped of wildlife and very little appears to be getting done to prevent this.

    I for one will be writing to her to ask her and suggest others do the same. To many SNP politicians are uncomfortably close to these estates.

  2. Can it be possible that all those gamekeepers, self professed wildlife and animal experts, missed any and every sign of badger baiting and the lack of raptors on Millden? Are we expected to believe this? How on earth can carcases of dead raptors be fouynbd on the estate without their knowledge? If postmortems were conducted on these birds when wiull be be told what killed them. Were they all shot? Who could possible be walking around the hills of Glen Esk carrying firearms without being instantly noticed and challenged?

    1. Quite agree, how could the others not know what was happening? If my neighbours had visitors at all hours of the day and night, the property was very run-down, there was a ‘dodgy’ smell, and the snow melted off the roof long before anyone else’s, would I not be at least a little bit suspicious?!!

  3. Who is behind all this mayhem I must have missed it somewhere but who actually owns this land and makes all this possible.

    1. Look up those websites on land registry and companies house re ownership and dates of purchase .Shown as a company then look up the “active directors” for the company. I have seen elsewhere that xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

  4. Just my opinion, but it is just not possible that the other keepers were ignorant of his activities. Young keepers especially on these big estates are a bit like brothers growing up in a large family – they may not always get along, but they are stuck with each other and they come to know each other inside out. Some may not have known how deeply he was into it that stuff – some may even have dissapproved to some extent, but they will have all have known he was really “into his terriers” and will have known from experience where young lads on that road almost always end up. [Ed: Thanks for your insight, as ever, but I’ve removed the last sentence of your comment as its defamatory]

    1. All true. I used to know many keepers on quite a number of different estates and on most all keepers knew each others business inside out and often those of neighbouring estates too. I can remember long ago a conversation with a head keeper ( no longer with us) on an estate where I was not allowed, although we spoke often, telling me that his under keepers were instructed to not co-operate with the keeper on a neighbouring estate because he has “criminal friends, likes dog fighting”, but the ultimate reason- “he thumps his wife.”
      His colleagues must have known IMHO.

  5. These people have free range to do as they please and if you dont enjoy killing wildlife “vermin” they call it then you would not last long as a gamekeeper so why people are questioning the official standard line xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx is a mystery to me surely no one was expecting an apology from these xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx [Ed: defamatory]

    1. The sooner these people leave the countryside, the sooner that the real ‘Custodians of the Countryside’ (i.e. the vast majority of us who live there) can start to repair the damage they have caused. We also need to strengthen our gun laws as there seems to be a lot of very dubious characters falling within the remit of the current licensing system.

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