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RSPB Scotland reveals more than 700 raptor deaths in 20-year report

One of three poisoned golden eagles found on Sutherland grouse moor May 2010 (2)
One of three poisoned golden eagles found on Sutherland grouse moor May 2010 (2)

A new report produced by RSBP Scotland has confirmed that more than 700 birds of prey have been killed illegally in the past 20 years.

Records show that 468 birds of prey were poisoned, 173 were shot and 76 were caught in illegal traps. There were also 50 destroyed nests, seven attempted shootings and five cases classed as “other”.

The figures include 104 red kites, 37 golden eagles, 30 hen harriers, 16 goshawks and 10 white-tailed eagles.

The review also revealed that in a further 171 incidents, poison baits or non-bird of prey victims of poisoning were found, including 14 domestic cats and 14 dogs.

The charity said its report by the specialist investigations teams deals only with incidents that have been confirmed as involving criminal activity and the number of birds killed could be higher.

The RSPB review revealed that in the past 20 years a £significant majority” of cases took place in areas associated with game-bird shooting, particularly in upland areas managed for grouse shooting.

But they also noted that in recent years there have been “welcome reductions” in the number of cases reported from lowland areas of the country.

Director of RSPB Scotland, Stuart Housden, said: “We recognise that many landowners and their staff have helped with positive conservation efforts for birds of prey, particularly with reintroduction programmes for white–tailed eagles and red kites, and that the majority operate legitimate shooting businesses. But there are still far too many who do not act responsibly, and there will be no improvement in the conservation status of raptors until all land management is carried out wholly within the law.”

Mr Housden praised the good work of police and the Crown Office to tackle wildlife crime to date but also called for a Scottish Government review in to game licensing in other countries, adding: “Self policing has been given more than a fair chance and numerous public warnings, from ministers aimed at upland sporting managers, have not been heeded.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “This document is solely about RSPB’s lobbying objective of grouse moor licensing.

“The only concrete evidence in it is the small section on the official figures from 2013/14 verified by Police Scotland, Scottish Government and Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture, and used by all agencies, including ourselves, in the fight against wildlife crime.

“The latest official statistics, released in September, showed the number of crimes committed against wild animals in Scotland, including birds of prey, fell to its lowest level in five years, which was praised by the Scottish Government, although no-one is being complacent.”

Tim Baynes, director of the Scottish Moorland Group, said: “Our condemnation of wildlife crime is unequivocal and we support the Scottish Government’s Environment Minister in the tough stance she has taken against those who indulge in this activity. There is a concerted effort by a number of organisations including Police Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association to eradicate the problem all together.

“The last five years has seen significant progress through Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime in Scotland  and we are therefore perplexed and disappointed that RSPB has chosen to look backwards and not forwards with their report, particularly in view of the overall positive trend. We would suggest that RSPB would achieve more by working more closely with people on the ground who are responsible for moorland management on a daily basis.”

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