Two golden eagles and a sea eagle were among 28 illegally poisoned Scottish birds of prey last year. A report published by RSPB Scotland indicates that human killing continues to have a serious impact on the populations of some of the country’s most vulnerable species.
The report states that in 2009, 21 buzzards, 4 red kites, 2 golden eagles and 1 white-tailed eagle, the latter gifted to Scotland from Norway as part of a reintroduction programme, were among the victims in 46 poisoning cases confirmed by Scottish Government testing.
Illegal killings, through shooting, nest destruction or the use of spring traps, were also confirmed in nine incidents. The RSPB says that many birds of prey are long-lived and have slow breeding rates, killing of these species and particularly adult breeding birds can have dire consequences for their populations as a whole and that this is affecting the conservation status of hen harriers, golden eagles and red kites.
Many of the incidents of illegal killing, now detailed in this report, were discovered by chance by members of the public in remote areas of countryside, suggesting the true number of cases could in reality be much higher.
Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland Head of Species and Land Management said, “We are lucky enough in Scotland to have some of the world’s most majestic species of birds of prey, but unfortunately a significant number of people continue to break the law and undermine the recovery of their populations.
“This activity threatens other countryside industries such as tourism and undermines Scotland’s reputation internationally.
“We will continue to work with the many responsible landowners and welcome the recent initiative by over 200 Scottish estates, who have publicly condemned wildlife crime, and who have called for robust enforcement action against the perpetrators.
“All estates now need to provide tangible evidence that they are taking positive action on the ground to safeguard protected species and giving firm instruction to their employees to obey the law. Increasing the occupied range and breeding productivity of bird of prey species is the best barometer of success.”
The report comes close on the heels of a Scottish Government initiative to work closer with the Irish Government to combat illegal poisoning of birds of prey. In May this year ten protected birds of prey were confirmed poisoned across the Irish Republic over a period of a few weeks. Police and other organisations are to forge closer working links to share expertise and intelligence.
Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said, “Both countries are committed to a healthier future for golden eagles. Sadly, poisoning is still being reported but both governments find this behaviour unacceptable. I believe that collaboration could help us in the fight to stop this damage to our biodiversity and to our international reputations.”