RPPDG thoughts

The non-attendance of the pro-shooting organisations at last week’s Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) meeting (you read about it first here but see also my further blog, the coverage in RPUK here, here and here and The Times) was a big miscalculation on their parts, and one from which their reputations are unlikely to recover in the short term.

Given the prominence of gamekeepers in the roll of dishonour of those convicted of crimes against birds of prey, and the far from prominent roll that the gamekeepers’ representative organisation has played in tackling wildlife crime, it is perhaps understandable that the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation felt a bit uncomfortable sitting on a group whose aim is to tackle the illegal killing of raptors.

I’m glad that the CLA still intends to be a member of the group and also that BASC seems to have quickly decided that a boycott of this group would be a public relations disaster. I don’t agree with BASC about everything, and I don’t think they behave entirely properly on all matters, but if the shooting industry is to be represented on a group dealing with wildlife crime, as surely they should be, then BASC is surely the best organisation to take on that position. BASC will have to raise their game if they are to play a more meaningful part in tackling wildlife crime but this is their opportunity to show leadership and to help the shooting industry to get to a better place.

Losing the Moorland Association and the Countryside Alliance is no loss at all. In fact, if they are thinking of coming back to the group then they ought to pay an entry fee! Their past behaviour, their public pronouncements and their ‘contributions’ to other similar groups such as the Peak District Raptor Forum and the Lead Ammunition Group suggest that neither is best suited to working to a collaborative agenda. I made some suggestions yesterday as to what the Moorland Association should be asked to contribute as their re-entry fee to the group (see here) and if I were Supt Nick Lyall I’d be inclined to tell the Moorland Association’s Chair, Nick Downshire, also known as Arthur Francis Nicholas Wills Hill, the 9th Marquess of Downshire, that he should come along to the group’s meetings himself to demonstrate the Moorland Association’s true commitment to the work of the group and tackling wildlife crime. I’m sure Nick Downshire would want to contribute fully and constructively to tackling wildlife crime.

Surely, at the next meeting of the group the analysis of the Natural England Hen Harrier satellie-tagging data will have been published? But since the results were presented to the world, secretly, at an ornithological conference in Canada last August, it should be possible to have a presentation of what the data demonstrate at the next meeting of the RPPDG, whoever is sitting around the table then, in April. The findings of that long term study are thought to be highly relevant to wildlife law enforcement in the English uplands. In fact, so relevant that maybe the NGO and Countryside Alliance should be asked along just for that item. Maybe they’d have lots of suggestions for tackling wildlife crime against hen Harriers that they have been too shy to suggest to date?

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4 Replies to “RPPDG thoughts”

  1. It is remarkable, but very welcome, that a simple thing as the arrival of Nick Lyall has had such a startling effect, not because of anything he has done, but the response of regular attendees. This will hopefully have repercussions long beyond the next meeting.

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  2. The first thing BASC could do to demonstrate at least some commitment to the 'C' in their name would be to ask their members to move away from lead, and lobby government to legislate on this subject.

    Not a great deal to do with the RPPDG I'll grant you, but a move on Conservation rather than the lazy assertion thst shooting IS conservation they have relied on for so long.

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  3. I think before we or any other conservationist believes Nick Downshire he ought to retrain or change his current grouse keeper, a man of no little "reputation."

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  4. Let me ask a very simple question, and I do mean it is a genuine question. I want people to point out the error of my thinking if I'm wrong, as I've no first hand experience of this type of body.

    Is there any concrete evidence of these shooting organizations ever offering useful information which has helped those trying to enforce the law to be more successful in catching and preventing the perpetrators illegal raptor persecution? Remembering that previously we had people on the RPPDG who were experts in gamekeeping methods.

    In other words, if anyone could tell us how these supposed rogue gamekeepers operate, it is other gamekeepers, and those with experience in shoot management. Most conservationists and police officers have very little experience and insight into how gamekeepers and shoot managers actually operate in practise. Therefore the most obvious role of shooting interests on this type of body should be to inform on how gamekeepers carrying out predator control operate in the real world, so those trying to detect rogue gamekeepers engaged in illegal raptor persecution can be more successful in detecting and catching them.

    My perception, and maybe I'm wrong, is that these shooting representatives have given very little to zero assistance in helping the police, the RSPB etc, catch those involved in illegal raptor persecution. Which if correct, begs the question of what are shooting representatives doing on the RPPDG? It seems to me that the intelligence flow is purely in one direction i.e. that these shooting representatives are learning what those trying to combat raptor persecution know about the methods used, how they operate trying to prevent raptor persecution and detect it, with no information or intelligence flowing in the other direction.

    It seems to me that we i.e. conservationists know next to nothing about how illegal raptor persecution is carried out. For instance we know these satellite tagged birds keep disappearing, presumable killed, and their tags are stopped from working. But we appear to know nothing at all as to the methods used to kill these birds, and how the satellite tags are stopped from transmitting. I personally believe that those killing these birds are likely to be using thermal imaging gear to detect them at roost. This is because satellite tagged birds are being killed with amazing efficiency. Any birder must know that the chance of a satellite tagged Hen Harrier flying within 45m of you by chance, about the maximum range of a shotgun, is remote in the extreme. So shooting interests could assist us by informing us of how widespread is the use of thermal imaging equipment by gamekeepers. Thermal imagers are commonly used by bailiffs trying to detect Salmon poaching etc, and fishery bailiffs and gamekeepers are often one and the same person. It is also likely gamekeepers use thermal imagers for both anti-poaching and monitoring deer or other predators. In fact I just Googled it, and companies selling thermal imagers, actually say they are ideal for use by gamekeepers.

    Maybe this is all known, and the shooting organizations have already assisted the police, the RSPB in knowing what type of equipment and methods gamekeepers regularly use? This is why I'm asking this as a question. However, if shooting representatives on the RPPDG have never given this assistance, I would ask again, what are they doing there? Why is it thought necessary or useful to have shooting representatives on the RPPDG, if they are not giving assistance in understanding how those involved in illegal raptor persecution are probably operating, and with what equipment.

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