Raptor persecution a falling trend according to Tim Bonner,Countryside Alliance Chief Executive

I have been involved with the protection and conservation of raptors for over 47 years, in all that time I have never had the misfortune to read an article filled with such misinformation, untruths and falsehoods as written by Tim Bonner, read the attached article published by the Countryside Alliance 3rd November.

Mr Bonner says “it may frustrate us that organisations like the RSPB, which published its annual ‘Birdcrime’ report on Wednesday, focus almost entirely on allegations against gamekeepers, but we should not be surprised. Nor should we expect the RSPB to highlight a falling trend in illegal raptor persecution, the massive and welcome rise in the populations of many raptor species to unprecedented levels.”

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For those of us at the sharp end of raptor persecution, we have seen birds like Hen Harrier and Peregrine decimated on moorland in northern England where red grouse are shot for enjoyment; an ongoing trend which shows little if any signs of slowing down despite legislation designed to offer legal protection to the species. This year (2017) only three successful Hen Harrier breeding attempts were recorded in the whole of England, yet unequivocal  Scientific research shows there is enough suitable moorland habitat in England for 320 pairs of Hen Harrier. So where is Tim Bonner getting his information he claims demonstrates a massive rise in the population of many raptor species to unprecedented levels? He most certainly was not referring to Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Short-eared owl or Goshawk. One species Mr Bonner might well have been thinking about could perhaps have been the Buzzard,  after all Natural England are now issuing control licenses allowing gamekeepers to kill these birds legally in order to protect pheasant stocks that are then shot for sport. Natural England’s justification for this new strategy claims killing a few Buzzards would not upset their overall population in England. Why would Natural England even consider allowing anyone to kill a ‘protected’ raptor to protect what is after all an alien species to our country? We would not expect Natural England to issue licenses to kill Goshawks to protect grey squirrels, or would we?

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Numbers of breeding Peregrines on northern England’s grouse moors have declined by between 95- 97%, a result of persecution linked to illegal gamekeeper activity. In November 2017 a Forest of Bowland gamekeeper appeared in court  charged with 9 criminal offences involving raptors, two of the charges involved the killing of two Peregrine Falcons at a single nest on the Bleasdale estate. In 2015 a clutch of eggs from the same nest site disappeared along with both adult breeding birds; were the nesting pair destroyed before the eggs were removed from the nest scrape? This estate has a long history of raptor persecution involving both Hen Harrier and Peregrine.

We should all be grateful that the RSPB are highlighting the level of illegal raptor killing taking place on keepered grouse moors in northern England, and that in the majority of instances where Peregrines and Hen Harriers have disappeared from their moorland territories the gamekeeper and estate owner must be held accountable.

In the last two years not a single Hen Harrier bred successfully in the Forest of Bowland, and this season (2017) only two pairs of Bowland Peregrines successfully reared young after 16 historical territories in this region are known to have been abandoned. Significantly seven of those abandoned nesting sites have been totally destroyed to prevent Peregrines returning to breed at these locations in the future. When it comes to the disappearance and killing of ‘protected’ raptors on moorland used for Red Grouse shooting, any rational person would expect the RSPB always tell the truth. However why should they report a falling trend in persecution levels, when the evidence is clear, raptors populations on Red Grouse moors in England are in dramatic decline generally. Mr Bonner may be interested in an important statistic, there are now more Peregrine Falcons breeding in London today than there are breeding on Red Grouse moorland in the whole of northern England put together, a frightening and totally unsatisfactory statistic.

It would appear a recent important shift in BASC policy towards the illegal killing of protected raptors, possibly involving a number of their members, undermines the absurd claims made by Tim Bonner within the Countryside Alliance article.

Shortly after the RSPB published their 2016 Wildlife Crime Report some weeks ago detailing the ongoing persecution of birds of prey and the links to the shooting industry to which Tim Bonner refers, Christopher Graffius, acting Chief Executive of the British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC), sent a letter to all BASC members, in which he said: “All of us need to realise that the killing of raptors is doing us no favours as it risks terminal damage to the sport we love,” he said.”

Christopher Graffius also said the following which Tim Bonner should take on board:

Killing the birds to protect pheasants and grouse was a “fool’s bargain” that his members had to stop or risk their sport being banned.

In the letter to his organisation’s 150,000 members he said that there were “criminals among us” who risked “wrecking shooting for the majority”.

 Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Protection Group

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5 comments to Raptor persecution a falling trend according to Tim Bonner,Countryside Alliance Chief Executive

  • Thorbjorn Odinsberg

    It is not for nothing that amongst many of us the CA is known as “the Countryside Areliars” when one reads this drivel from Bonner. Either that or he lives in a parallel universe. I don’t often agree wholeheartedly with Terry Pickford but on this occasion I do.
    One thing troubles me I believe Christopher Gaffius entirely but there are others from the MA, GWCT, NGO, SGA and even his own BASC whose sincerity I very much doubt when they talk of tackling raptor persecution. I think they are speaking with forked tongues and shedding crocodile tears. It is Action we need from them not words, success can only be measured in successfully breeding birds in territories currently vacant across the grouse moors of England. Only then might we begin to believe them.

  • Thanks for that Paul it means a great deal coming from you.

  • You really could not make this stuff up i mean seriously Raptors are not in decline…………….

    Editor’s Comment. Well Tim Bonner did,but he did not get away with making such ridiculous claims.

  • Trapit

    Paul is correct, Mr Bonner citing increases of many Raptors to “unprecedented levels”,could easily mislead the uninformed.

    Birds such as Buzzard,Red Kite (aided by re-introductions),and Marsh Harrier, are merely reclaiming ground lost to two centuries of persecution.

    Some credit for this, should be given to the general improvement in attitude towards raptors on low ground shoots,and a big reduction in the general use of poison by them. The fact that many grouse preserving districts,such as South Yorkshire, Bowland, and the Yorkshire Dales,have all but been cleared of the larger raptor species, and continue to be maintained in this fashion,takes a bit of the gloss of Mr Bonner’s statement.

  • Philip Lanczak

    Tim Bonner is a disgrace, he shows his mettle clearly by making random statements, based on nothing scientific, for a man in such a position you might have expected that he would choose his words carefully, words that can be backed up with scientific data. He did not do that, snd in doing so made himself look a completely ignorant idiot !! He is as bad as that other buffoon Ian Botham ! If this is the level of intelligence that the shootists rely on to save their outdated prehistoric values, then we should more rejoice as anyone with more than 1 brain cell in operation can read his blather and dismiss it for what it is !! Utter rubbish !!

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