A REWARD for information on those responsible for a spate of raptor poisonings in the Highlands has been doubled to £10,000.
An anonymous donor deeply concerned about the illegal killing of 16 birds of prey in a two-square-mile area in Ross-shire has come forward to increase the reward for information leading to a successful prosecution.
Police Scotland has confirmed that the death toll in the area currently consists of 12 red kites and four buzzards.
RSPB Scotland offered a £5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction, which has now been doubled by the anonymous donor.
Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management for RSPB Scotland, said: “This appalling incident highlights the very real threat illegal poisoning poses to fantastic species like red kites.
“The vulnerable Black Isle population in particular has been repeatedly hit by deaths due to illegal poison use.
“The Chilterns population in Southern England is nearly ten times bigger, yet both projects started at the same time in 1989 with the same number of birds released into the wild. That is a shocking indictment on behaviour of some in this part of rural Scotland.
“An anonymous donor deeply concerned at the illegal killing of the red kites has come forward to increase our reward for information leading to a prosecution to £10,000. We urge anyone with information to contact Police Scotland as soon as possible.”
The fatalities were all located in the last fortnight within a two-square-mile area of Ross-shire, south east of Conon Bridge around Conon Brae, Balvail, Leanaig and Alcaig.
One of the dead birds was a 16-year-old female first tagged in 1998. She had been breeding in the Black Isle for 14 years and had raised between 25 to 30 young – one of which, an eight-year-old female, was also among the dead.
Around 25 volunteers dedicate their free time at the Tollie Red Kite reserve near Conon Bridge, helping to feed the birds and speak to visitors.
The wildlife criminal investigation is being carried out by police in close collaboration with partner agencies, RSPB, SSPCA, Scotland’s Rural College and the Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA).
A Police Spokesman would not confirm which toxin was involved but said it had acted quickly, indicating that the birds ingested it close to where they had died.
He added: “Partner agencies would seek to remind members of the public that if anyone finds any further dead birds or animals in the area they are asked to make a note of its location and inform the police on 101.
“Under no circumstances should anyone touch or attempt to recover any dead animal.”
The red kite became extinct in Scotland in the late 19th century, largely due to persecution, the taxidermy trade and egg collecting.
Between 1989 and 1991, 93 red kites of Swedish origin were reintroduced on the Black Isle. According to the wildlife charity, an estimated 166 red kites from that population were later illegally poisoned between 1999 and 2006.
Other reintroductions have been carried out near Stirling and in Dumfries and Galloway and Aberdeenshire.
The number of birds of prey illegally poisoned in Scotland doubled last year.
Figures from the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (Paw) Scotland showed six birds were found to have been illegally poisoned.
The numbers remain well below a peak of 30 poisoned birds recorded in 2009.