Details of wildlife crime are all too often spoken about openly by the perpetrators in the remote countryside pub, you just don’t know who has been listening however! There was the conversation overheard detailing the killing of the Red Kites in South Cumbria, and the killing of Eagle Owls. Now a disturbing conversation between estate gamekeepers bragged about killing 250 Birds of Prey in a year was overheard recently in a Cumbrian pub!!
Remember we are talking about the 21st century when all these birds of prey being killed are supposedly protected by law, and that a prison sentence is on the cards for anyone caught in the act. Not to mention the value of those Birds of Prey being destroyed to Wildlife Tourism – an increasing feature of modern tourism worth £156 million a year in Scotland alone and with the potential of increasing!
The figures of dead Birds of Prey highlight that this particular Cumbrian estate is not alone in the numbers being systematically destroyed on shooting estates around the country. The well known figure for the Langholm estate in Scotland printed in Derek Ratcliffe’s book ‘Galloway and the Borders‘ gave a figure of 300 Birds of Prey destroyed in a single year. Dr Ratcliffe’s data collated around 1990 consisted of Golden Eagles, Goshawks, Hen Harriers, lots of Short eared Owls and Sparrowhawks to boot.
Dr Ian Newton who did his research on Sparrowhawks at Langholm wondered why he was observing so many first year birds trying to breed in his monograph for Poyser – The Sparrowhawk!
With the 2016 sanctioned licensed killing of Buzzards to protect pheasant stocks in and around their release pen, without any attempt to deflect the birds away instead of shooting them, we are looking at a government who do not care for the wider countryside but only want to support a small proportion of their more powerful supporters!
Where does it leave ourselves and organisations like the RSPB? Perhaps instead of all the work in the field to trying to apprehend the perpetrators, why not try the modern version of ‘spy’ equipment placed on their phones, in the pubs and any where they would be caught giving the information freely between their friends?