Having been told by phone that a warning regarding poisons on the Leadhills grouse moors was circulating, I posted a copy on Leadhills Notice Board (Facebook).
This drew some intriguing responses, the inevitable outrage, but also the suggestion that the find (back in March 2013) might actually have been maliciously planted to incriminate the local gamekeepers. This is sadly, not beyond the realms of reality.
There is a long history of raptor persecution in and around Leadhills, with a number of prosecutions already undertaken. But a few years back, there was a major change in the game keeping team. Since then, there has been a visible resurgence of raptors and other species, around Leadhills; raptors are now to be seen over the village, something unheard of a few years back.
So what of this poisoned bait find?
Well, it happened in March 2013 and was made public in June. The Police investigation ended inconclusively in November. That is, inconclusive as to who actually planted the baits. Where that leaves the Game Keepers is an entirely different matter, as conveyed to me by the Head Gamekeeper and the Estate Manager.
At the commencement of the investigation, the entire game keeper team voluntarily provided finger prints and DNA samples and thereafter, cooperated fully with the investigation; the outcome of which was that there was no evidence that the team had been in anyway connected with said poison baits. But is that enough?
Well the appearance of a somewhat belated “alert” would suggest otherwise, at least as far as Project Raptor is concerned. But the leaflet makes no mention of the fact that the poisons were found eight months previously, nor does it indicate that the Police investigation found no evidence suggesting the involvement of any gamekeeper. It does however, [seem to] imply [perhaps unintentionally,] that the Leadhills estate is “something to do with it.” Guilt by association[?]
So, the fledgling peace enjoyed in Leadhills has been downgraded to “uneasy”. Whilst speaking with the Head Gamekeeper and the Estate Manager, the upset both are feeling is palpable – my gut reaction is that they are indeed the victims of malice; either through a rogue individual, not of their association, bent on the destruction of Leadhills’ now thriving raptors; or by an individual bent on tarnishing the reputation of the new game keeping team and with them, the Leadhills Estate.
Thus, it seems to me that as a community, we must not only look out for the well-being of our raptors, our pets and most certainly, our children; but also the reputations and well-being of our game keepers. And this because some idiot has seen fit to leave vast amounts of carbofuran lying about and may decide to do so again in the future.
I am no fan of shooting, but I can see no good reason for sullying the good names of innocent people, for the purpose of damaging the Leadhills Estate, or to satisfy some personal hatred of raptors; not to mention the fact that such actions risk human lives.
So I suggest that we all keep our eyes and ears open and report any suspicious activity or finds. Whoever is doing this (and right now, the evidence suggests it is NOT a Leadhills gamekeeper), will make a mistake eventually that will tie them to the crime – whatever that crime actually is.
I have been in discussion with a person in the raptor protection community (I don’t know whether or not he is associated with Project Raptor), who has raised the following:
- That the leaflet does not name Leadhills or the Estate and therefore does not accuse them.
- That there has been a further incident, the shooting of a Red Kite in August this year.
I have made the following reply (and have made some small amendments  above):
I concede that the leaflet does not specifically accuse anyone by name or association, but given the context in which it was issued, the timing and specifically, this paragraph:
“In an area where there is persistent evidence of wildlife crime occurring, such as the unlawful targeting and killing of birds of prey, then this may have a significant and damaging impact on tourism and therefore the local economy. The reputation of a community can also be harmed by the actions of a criminal minority operating in your area.”
– it is hardly surprising that many Leadhills residents have interpreted it as being accusatory, as evidenced by the upset caused. It is conceded that this may not have been the intention and one must give the benefit of the doubt; I have also suggested a more diplomatic approach in future, given that interpretation is not on the words alone – we read between the lines. The fact is that the leaflet has been divisive, which in no way furthers the cause of eliminating raptor persecution in and around our village. It is the view of many in this village, that the current game keepers deserve the benefit of the doubt and that so given, this can further the cause of eliminating raptor persecution – we need to be on the same side.
With respect to the shooting of the red kite, I have observed that according to the SSPCA report, the find was in the village (i.e. not on the Estate proper). We are also not privy to the type of fire arm used, which increases the likelihood that this incident is entirely unrelated to the estate and/or it’s employees – it might have been perpetrated by an ignorant teen with a powerful air rifle.
I have indicated that as a community, we need to be fully and sensitively informed as to what precisely has happened along with where, when and if possible, how. If we are to respond effectively and maybe, finally get at the “who”, we need to be in the know, not flailing about in the dark. We need to be united. The head keeper and the estate manager have told me that they and their staff have nothing to do with these crimes or any other illegal activity; so it seems to me that this is the time for all those whose stated wish is to see the law upheld, to unite in making every effort of vigilance and cooperation, to discourage and prevent further incidents – that is all of Leadhills – including its game keepers.
Finally, I have asked Marco (the person who posed the observations), if he is able to flesh out details of recent incidents, such that they may be better understood and sensible reaction formulated. I am also in touch with others with interests in this matter and possibly salient information. We’ll see what turns up. In the mean time, we keep eyes and ears open as a community.