People - that's what!
|CCO image from Pixabay|
It has recently been revealed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds that Scotland's raptor population, particularly the golden eagle, is being kept down by illegal killing.
Raptors in Scotland, such as the golden eagle, the hen harrier, the red kite and others, have legal protection against persecution (not just killing - it is also illegal to harass or disturb a nesting raptor) but this legal protection hasn't been very successful in preventing numerous raptors being illegally killed apparently by parties with a vested interest in the eradication (or near eradication) of these magnificent birds. According to the RSPB over the past 20 years 700 raptors, or birds of prey, have been shot, poisoned, trapped or otherwise killed.
So who is doing this? Well, the obvious suspects are those gamekeepers and landowners of the big grouse shooting estates in the highlands of Scotland who (allegedly) carry out these illegal killings in an attempt to negate the effect that raptors have on the grouse populations of their estates although just how many grouse raptors take each year is open to question.
|Photograph by the author|
The RSPB further state that only 15% of suspected cases of persecution of raptors were prosecuted (but most of those which were resulted in a conviction). This low prosecution rate probably reflects the fact that most raptor killings take place in isolated areas well away from prying eyes!
I can understand how shooting estates would object to raptors taking grouse and understand that they want to protect their investment (huntin'/shootin'/fishin' estates are big business in Scotland) but these birds have legal protection for a reason.
|CC0 image from Pixabay|
There is an argument to say that the presence of raptors in Scotland is a big tourist attraction. Speaking personally, the sight of a golden eagle soaring over a remote hillside and disappearing into the mist quickens my pulse - it is one of the joys of Scotland's natural world.
Would it not be better for those grouse-shooting estates to accept the loss of a few birds in exchange for the greater opportunities offered by wildlife tourism? Is it not possible to combine grouse shooting (with guns if you must) with golden eagle shooting with cameras?
Possibly some sort of compensation scheme could be offered by the Scottish government - cash paid for every grouse lost to a raptor perhaps. Similar schemes operate elsewhere in the world where wildlife and human farming/herding clash. It would be a real shame if 'protecting our investment' was the reason raptors disappeared from the highlands.
Main story sources:RSPB review: The illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland
Scottish Raptor Study Group
Disappearance of Elwood
Disappearance of golden eagles