It’s been (just over) six months since 22 raptors were poisoned in a single incident at Conon Bridge in Ross-shire.
So far, we know that 16 of those birds (12 red kites + 4 buzzards) were killed by ingesting “an illegally-held poisonous substance”. We know that the name of the poison has been redacted from official government documents in the public domain. We know that nobody has been arrested.
That, in a nutshell, is about the sum total of the ‘official’ information that is available about one of the most high-profile wildlife crimes in recent years.
Isn’t that amazing? Six months on and that’s all there is?
However, if you’d been sitting in Lecture Marquee #3 at the Rutland Birdfair on Saturday 16th August, you’d have heard that the poison used to kill all those birds was Carbofuran, and that the perpetrator is known. Indeed, the (alleged) perpetrator was virtually named and anyone sitting in that marquee who had any local knowledge of Conon Bridge would know exactly who was being implicated.
It was an astonishing talk delivered by Sir John Lister-Kaye, who introduced himself as a Vice-president of RSPB. It was astonishing both in the level of detail about the case that was delivered, but also in the level of inaccuracy about raptor persecution in general. For someone with Lister-Kaye’s credentials, the content of that talk left our jaws hanging open.
Given the wholly inaccurate statements he made about raptor persecution in general (including a claim that Carbofuran could be used under licence to treat seed crops (!!) and that raptor killing in Scotland has never really been widespread until very recently and then only as the landowners’ angry backlash following the introduction of vicarious liability), his statements about the Ross-shire Massacre need to be treated with caution.
Nevertheless, whilst he deserves to be pulled up on his shoddy research skills, he deserves credit for standing up in that marquee and giving more information in 20 minutes than Police Scotland has managed in six months.
Red Kites flourishing in Yorkshire
There are calls for tougher penalties for wildlife criminals after figures showed 30 red kites have been shot or poisoned in Yorkshire since the birds were re-introduced in the region 15 years ago.
Red kites were all but wiped from Britain's skies in Victorian times when the rapidly expanding population saw the birds, which are scavengers, as a threat to food supplies.
Now more than 100 years later, conservationists in our region are at the forefront of the campaign to ensure the birds of prey have a brighter future. Emma Wilkinson reports.
Back from the brink of extinction, Red Kites are flourishing since they were re-introduced on the Harewood Estate. Doug Simpson led that project and was awarded an MBE in recognition of his work.
He advised and agreed to transfer their kite buildings to our Project in 2004, and we maintain contact.
He is concerned about the status of Red Kites, saying:
I was aware that there was a persecution problem.............since their reintroduction thirty red kites have been found dead, and those are the ones which have been found.
View the video to hear more about this.
Sent to us by Linda Johnstone Muir and Ord
Highland Council united incondemnation of Black Isle red kite killings
Written by Laurence Ford
BIRD champions RSPB Scotland has welcomed the condemnation of the recent killings of birds of prey by Highland Council.
A motion condemning the slaughter of almost two dozen raptors was unimoiusly agreed by the full council in Inverness yesterday.
The council also pledged to work with police and other agencies to fight wildlife crime.
The motion, presented by senior representatives of the SNP, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Independent groups, read: "The Highland Council condemns the recent illegal killing of red kites and buzzards on the Black Isle both as wrong in itself and as an act with potential to reduce the economic benefits that wildlife tourism brings to the Highlands.
"The council urges anyone with relevant information to contact Police Scotland; welcomes the actions of Scottish Land & Estates and of NFU Scotland in supporting attempts to identify the culprit(s); and commits itself to continuing to work with community planning partners, through the Highland Environment Forum, to reinvigorate the fight against all wildlife crime in the Highlands."
Council leader Drew Hendry said: "This is an extremely serious matter. It has been a blow to the reputation of the Highlands, a blow to our economy and a blow to our daily lives."
RSPB spokesman Alan Tissiman said: "The deaths of so many birds - at the last count 16 red kites and six buzzards - has triggered an enormous response from the people of the Highlands.
"It is very encouraging that their elected representatives on the council are also speaking up on behalf of our wildlife."
BLACK ISLE RAPTOR MASSACRE PROTEST RALLY IN INVERNESS.
Two of our members, Tim Watson and June Atkinson, travelled to Inverness to show solidarity with those in the Black Isle Raptor Protest Rally. Here is Tim's report:
A short 'march' through Inverness and a well attended gathering of the public recorded widespread anger at the worst single incident of bird of prey persecution in modern times.
After 15 Red Kites and 4 Buzzards were found dead, mostly poisoned, in a small area of Easter Ross (Black Isle) in late March, members of the public, farms, estates and the conservation community came together on April 12th 2014 in the centre of town to call for an end to repeated wildlife crime.
19 'ghost' raptors (white painted cut outs) were carried though the town from different directions before gathering in the town centre.
Speakers included Sir John Lister-Kaye, vice president of the RSPB and Allan Bantick, chair of the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
Because of the deaths of Red Kites, all from the Black Isle reintroduction scheme which started in 1989, two volunteers from Friends of Red Kites made the long journey north to show solidarity with the conservation community. Sadly, Gateshead's own Red Kites, reintroduced between 2004-6, have not been immune from poisoning incidents and this is thought to be compromising the spread of the birds here in our region. One of our kites flew north and was photographed along with the Scottish kites before heading south again. A Black Isle bird which moved south in the winter of 2012/13 to mingle with our kites on the upper Pennines was found dead in March 2013.
This outpouring of anger is probably the first specific protest of its kind about bird/wildlife crime and comes as Golden Eagles, Peregrines, Goshawks and Hen Harriers are also still being targeted. (Reminds me of the heady days of anti-whaling marches in the 80's!) It comes at a time when some are calling for protests around August 12th (so called Glorious Twelth) at the fact that no Hen Harriers nested successfully in England during 2013.
Dead red kites from Muir of Ord Image L-D Johnstone
BBC 12 April
Inverness 'ghost raptor' protest over Ross-shire bird poisonings
Scores of people marched to the city of Inverness over the deaths of 14 red kites and five buzzards. The birds have been found near Conon Bridge since 18 March.
Nineteen white cut-outs of birds dubbed "ghost raptors" were displayed during the event.
RSPB vice president Sir John Lister-Kaye, who attended the rally, said: "This incident is an outrage and the public are right to be angry."
"Poisoning is unacceptable and we call on the Scottish Government and the police to stamp it out."
Protester Andrea Goddard said: "If the public, RSPB and the authorities can pool our collective sadness and anger at this atrocity we may be able to effect real and lasting change. It's time for action."
Police Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Scottish SPCA and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) have been involved in investigating the deaths.
Members of the landowners organisation, Scottish Land & Estates, and NFU Scotland have contributed £12,000 towards a reward for information leading to the prosecution of whoever is responsible for the poisonings.
Many of the red kites were tagged when they were chicks as part of a conservation project. They include a 16-year-old female kite tagged in 1998.
On Friday, SNH chairman Ian Ross has described the deaths as "shocking, grim and distressing".
The killings threatened Scotland's appeal as a wildlife tourism destination, he added.
Nature-based tourism is said to be worth £1.4bn a year to the Scottish economy.
Image courtesy of June Atkinson
Tim Watson (far right) and June Atkinson attended the Rally. Some time ago, a Black Isle red kite flew south and was with our kites on Muggleswick Moor. Sadly, it was later found dead. More recently, one of our kites was found dead and forensic tests showed it had died of carborfuran poisoning. This illustrates that we, in the broader region, face similar problems to those which have occurred in the Black Isle.
on behalf of Friends of Red Kites.
The number of dead raptors found in the Conon Bridge area of Ross-shire has risen to 19. These include 14 red kites and five buzzards.
Toxicology tests so far have determined that 12 of them (9 kites and 3 buzzards) had been poisoned. Tests have not yet been completed on all the corpses.
In response to one of the worst mass poisoning incidents in recent times, RSPB Scotland is organising a public protest in Inverness town centre this Saturday. The key aim of this protest is to let the Scottish Government know that we all want action to prevent this criminal persecution of our raptors from happening again.
Protest Date: Saturday 12th April at 2pm.
This is the story that just won't go away.
This morning we reported that a 13th dead red kite had been found (see here).
Now, a 14th red kite has been uncovered in the Ross-shire Massacre, bringing the total of confirmed dead birds to 18 (14 red kites & 4 buzzards). We fully expect this figure to rise again.
As the death toll grows, so does the reward fund, reflecting the public's increasing frustration and anger. If you'd like to donate, please click HERE.
| The RSPB has set up an on-line donation page where those of us who want to show our disgust and outrage at the Ross-shire Massacre can contribute towards the 'reward for information' fund. |
The reward was initially set up by RSPB with a £5,000 contribution. This has now been increased to £10,000 thanks to an anonymous donor. Here's our chance to further increase the reward.
If the reward is unclaimed, the funds will be used directly for contributing towards the RSPB's Investigation Unit - a small team of dedicated professionals doing their utmost against the powerful, well-funded and influential game-shooting industry.
If you'd like to show your support, and ramp up the pressure on the poisoning criminals who continue to commit these atrocities, you can donate here.
RSPB press release here.
Friends of Red Kites have made a contribution to this cause.
British Trust for Ornithology flags up this new site.
Welcome to BirdID
Selection of BBC Videos about the Red Kite: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Red_Kite#intro