RSPB Scotland warns it is “no coincidence” majority of missing birds of prey disappear in areas managed for gamebird shooting
Eighth golden eagle disappears in the Monadhliath mountains in less than five years
Eagle - credit: Fotolia
RSPB Scotland has warned it is “no coincidence” that the vast majority of missing birds of prey have disappeared in areas intensively managed for gamebird shooting, after the eighth golden eagle went missing in the Monadhliath mountains in less than five years.
The charity said the chances of so many birds of prey disappearing over such a short timescale without some kind of human interference is “so small as to be negligible”.
RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations, Ian Thomson, said: “The pattern we see here is consistent with the birds having been killed and the transmitters destroyed.”
But the Scottish Moorland Group, an organisation for landowners and gamekeepers which is managed by Scottish Land & Estates, said there is “no clear evidence of the golden eagles having even died in the Monadhliath area, let alone having been "persecuted" on grouse moors as RSPB is alleging”.
The Scottish Government has responded with a review of tracking data in an effort to investigate if suspicious activity has taken place, with Roseanna Cunningham, cabinet secretary for environment, climate change and land reform, warning the Scottish Government is prepared to introduce further regulation of shooting businesses if necessary.
She said: “The public rightly expects all businesses in Scotland to obey the law. Let me be clear: grouse shooting is no exception.”
However Thomson said: “These eight birds have all disappeared in an area where driven grouse moor management dominates the landscape, and where there have been many previous cases of illegal killing of protected raptors, including the poisoning of a golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle as recently as 2010.”
He added: “Once again, the commendable positive efforts of those landowners and estates who welcome golden eagles and host their nesting attempts, including elsewhere in the Monadhliaths, are being catastrophically undermined by those who have a complete disregard for the law, and who continue to threaten the conservation status of these magnificent birds.”
The first of the eight birds went missing on November 2011, with the most recent disappearance occurring at some point in the last month.
Scottish Moorland Group director Tim Baynes said: "Our organisation is an enthusiastic member of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime and our members are committed to golden eagle conservation across Scotland.”
He added: “There are other explanations for satellite tags stopping working and the failure of RSPB to involve land managers in trying to establish the facts is disappointing.”
Anyone with information regarding the disappearance is being asked to contact the police.
Cunningham said: “The latest reports of satellite-tagged golden eagles disappearing on or near grouse moors are very disturbing and disappointing.
“That is why I have instructed officials to analyse the evidence from around 90 surviving and missing satellite-tagged eagles, to discover if there is a pattern of suspicious activity.
“Grouse moor management does help species such as curlew and golden plover as well as generating much needed rural employment and income but this cannot be at any price.”
MSPs urged ministers to write to public bodies at the start of the reporting cycle, and at regular intervals, to remind them of their duties
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