A young satellite-tagged Red Kite has been found poisoned on a Scottish grouse moor, lying next to a poisoned bait, in this case, a Lapwing, whose corpse had been cut open to entice any passing predator and to allow for easy access to the poison.
This gruesome discovery was made by a member of the public on 20th May 2021 on Dava Moor, just beyond the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park.
The Red Kite had hatched in a nest near Grantown on Spey in 2020. This nest was only the second to be located in Badenoch & Strathspey; the first pair at nearby Cromdale disappeared after just one successful breeding season. That only two nests have been located in Badenoch & Strathspey, 32 years after the start of the re-introduction of red kites to the Black Isle, speaks volumes of the ongoing illegal persecution in this region, as noted in a scientific study published in 2016 (here).
Police Scotland attended the scene of the poisoning and collected the Red Kite and the Lapwing for toxicology analysis. They also conducted a search of the grouse moor the following week. Toxicology tests confirmed the presence of poison in both the Kite and the Lapwing.
Sixteen months later in September 2022, Police Scotland notified the member of the public that ‘enquiries are complete, nobody has been charged and the case is now closed‘.
So where was the Police Scotland press release about this serious wildlife crime?
Where was the appeal for information about this serious wildlife crime?
Why has the name of the poison been withheld? Given the proximity of the poisoned Red Kite to the poisoned bait, we can assume it was a fast-acting, highly toxic poison, dangerous to humans as well as to wildlife. Was it one of the eight poisons (Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium phosphide, Bendiocarb, Carbofuran, Mevinphos and Sodium cyanide and Strychnine) banned under the Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005, so dangerous it’s even an offence to be in possession of these chemicals, let alone to place them out on a bait in the open countryside?
Where was the warning to both locals and visitors to the area from Police Scotland about this serious threat to public safety?
Who benefits from this secrecy? Not the public, that’s for sure, and not wildlife.
Police Scotland has form for withholding information about raptor persecution crimes (e.g. see here, here, here, here). It’s noticeable that yet again, in the RSPB’s latest Birdcrime Report (2021), Police Scotland is the only force (with the exception of Dorset Police – on which more shortly) to withhold details of crimes that took place over a year ago.
I don’t know who’s making these decisions – I doubt very much it’s the wildlife crime officers on the ground, most of whom these days are undertaking prompt and rigorous investigations – but somewhere up the chain of command a decision appears to have been made to keep these serious crimes under wraps. Why is that?
I don’t understand the rationale at all. Certainly, in the early stages of an investigation it often pays for details to be withheld so as not to compromise searches etc. But sixteen months after the crime is discovered? It doesn’t make sense, and all it does is undermine public confidence.
I’d also like to know why a General Licence restriction hasn’t been imposed on Dava Moor. I understand from conversations with locals that somebody other than the landowner may be responsible for the ‘sporting management’ of Dava Moor. I’ve been told who that is by a number of people but have been unable to verify it so I’m not publishing it here. Nevertheless, at least two General Licence restrictions have previously been applied on landholdings that were ‘managed’ by someone other than the landowner so that shouldn’t be a barrier to imposing a restriction in this case.
And this isn’t the only illegal poisoning incident that Police Scotland are withholding from the public…more shortly.
UPDATE 6th December 2022: General Licence restriction to be considered on grouse moor where poisoned red kite and bait found (here)
UPDATE 2nd January 2023: Raven poisoned with banned chemicals – Police Scotland withhold information (here)
UPDATE 17th January 2023: Police Scotland confirm red kite found poisoned on grouse moor had been killed with banned pesticide (here)