Tim Baynes’ response to The Scotsman article, “Wildlife crime against birds of prey hits five year high” (21 October), is disingenuous. It is right that in 2013 there were 23 incidents of reported crimes against birds of prey documented in the recent Scottish Government Wildlife Crime Report.
Sadly, this is an increase on the 14 incidents reported in 2012. These incidents include some high-profile crimes, which rightly caused public outrage, including the nest destruction of the first white-tailed eagle breeding attempt on the east coast of Scotland for more than a century, as well as the illegal poisoning of a satellite-tagged golden eagle, Fearnan.
We disagree strongly with his assertion that “bird of prey crimes have been declining overall for some years”.
Most crimes against birds of prey take place in remote areas of countryside where it is easier to conceal illegal activity than to find it. The incidents in the Scottish Government report are simply those reported by members of the public based upon chance finds.
A golden eagle fitted with a satellite tag with GPS tracking facility can be located, but how many crimes of this type go undetected in our upland landscapes?
Even golden eagles fitted with satellite tags have been routinely and mysteriously disappearing without trace, and more than often in areas with a bad history of raptor crime.
Based upon the wider monitoring of bird populations in Scotland, it is noted that typical bird of prey species are often absent as breeding species from traditionally occupied areas, notably on land in our uplands managed for driven grouse shooting.
This wider monitoring gives a clear indication of the continuing widespread scale of human interference with legally protected raptor species.
This illegal activity is persistent and requires a real deterrent; that is why we are now calling on the Scottish Government to introduce a licensing system for driven grouse moors conditional on compliance with wildlife protection legislation. We also support proposed new powers for the Scottish SPCA to work with the police to investigate and report wildlife crimes to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
Head of Species and Land Management
Tim Baynes applauds the fight against wildlife crime and rightly endorses the partnership working that is part of it.
Partnership working in committee rooms is only as good as the changes in land management practices that may follow from it. Wildlife crime has been described correctly as “a crime without witnesses”.
A true test of the extent of reduction of wildlife crime will be not so much what can be gleaned from reported statistics, but, for example, the return of hen harriers, golden eagles and peregrines to areas of good habitat from which they are currently absent.
Scottish Raptor Study Group