Friday, August 12, 2016

The Inglorious 12th

Wildlife groups are urging the Scottish parliament to stop estate managers killing birds of prey to protect the grouse. A broad coalition of wildlife groups has launched a petition in the Scottish parliament urging the Holyrood government to act against landowners and their estate managers who have been killing eagles, red kites and hen harriers. The Scottish Raptor Study Group, comprising 300 experts who monitor birds of prey, lodged the petition. It wants “urgent action to introduce a state regulated system of licensing of game bird hunting”.

Bill Oddie, the celebrated bird-watcher and naturalist said, “At a time when wildlife is being abused all over the world, killing for fun is surely sacrilege.” 

An e-petition, backed by a powerful lobby of conservationists, animal welfare groups and television naturalists, was launched asking the UK government to ban driven grouse shooting. Thus far it has gained almost 75,000 signatures. It followed the news that the National Trust had banned shooting on landed property it owned in Derbyshire. This was in response to claims that illegal shooting of hen harriers was taking place there. If it reaches 100,000 signatures, a debate in parliament must ensue.

 The organisers of the e-petition are clear about what they stand for. “Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which increases flood risk and greenhouse gas emissions, relies on killing foxes, stoats, mountain hares, etc in large numbers and often leads to the deliberate illegal killing of protected birds of prey, including hen harriers.”

The hen harrier is one of the most persecuted birds of prey in the UK. It is the subject of intense monitoring by various conservation bodies. As it feeds on grouse, it has been a target of gamekeepers seeking to protect numbers on shooting estates which specialise in driven grouse shooting.

The Scottish Raptor Study Group believes in Scotland the golden eagle is scarcest in areas where field sports are most prevalent.

Following a high court ruling, for the first time ever in the UK buzzards can be shot under licence to protect young pheasants, a move that will benefit game shooting. The case was brought by a gamekeeper who claimed his livelihood was being damaged by buzzard attacks. The RSPB condemned the ruling. Its conservation director, Martin Harper, said: “It sets a worrying precedent. What will be next? Red kites, peregrines, hen harriers?”

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: “The UK and Isle of Man population of hen harriers declined by 20% between 2004 and 2010, evidenced by national survey data, with a breeding population around one third of what it should be. It is wrong to speculate on the results of the current national hen harrier survey undertaken in 2016 as the results are only now being collated. There is a significant and increasing body of scientific evidence, including government-commissioned research, data from satellite tagged birds and documented incidents of wildlife crime, to show that the relentless illegal killing of hen harriers on land managed for driven grouse shooting is the main factor limiting the species’ population. To suggest otherwise is misleading.”

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