When Charlie Jacobey was telling me what I thought, and occasionally letting me get a word in edgeways, he reckoned that there were just a few bad apples in the shooting industry. I reckoned there were lots.
The latest very sad news of a Hen Harrier caught in a trap on a grouse shooting estate is terrible. It’s terrible because this general area has a history of raptor persecuution. Go to the RPUK website and just put ‘Leadhills’ in the search engine (quite low down on the RHS) and you’ll find quite a lot of past misdemeanours. No-one, least of all I, knows who is responsible for them. Are there wildlife crime tourists heading for Leadhills every year as their chosen holiday destination to kill some raptors? They might even be the English nipping over the Border – crikey! Who knows? Who could guess?
Where else has been in the news recently? Strathbraan – yes! Wasn’t Ian Thomson waving around a map with lots of coloured dots on it showing wildlife crime cases in Strathbraan? Yes he was! Good heavens – have we stumbled across another place with a very active resident or visiting bad apple (or apples) by any chance?
Where else has been in the news recently? Nidderdale! Surely River was just a one-off? Well, a one-off apart from Bowland Betty. And apart from all those Red Kites that were known to have been killed illegally and those Hen Harriers that are known to have disappeared so unexpectedly that a bunch of boffins put their deaths down to illegal persecution. Crikey we’ve found another wildlife crime hotspot. Another incredibly active bad apple or pile of bad apples. Here’s the map of the apple’s or apples’ activities which are known to be just the tip of the proverbial.
Then there are the North Yorks Moors and the Peak District National Parks – known from the science to be the homes, or perhaps the visiting places, of some more bad apples since these are the places where Hen Harriers disappear ( = die due to illegal persecution) the most quickly.
Hang on, aren’t all these hotspots in the uplands? They are! And aren’t they all packed with grouse moors? They are!
And they are scattered quite widely and we could make a long list of them couldn’t we? We could!
Now birds of prey tend to die by being shot, poisoned or trapped. Who would have the expertise to use that type of equipment? I don’t know really – we probably need a review group to spend a year or two working that one out.
And these birds have died in remote parts of upland Britain – what type of people have the opportunity to visit the uplands regularly and perhaps even at will to carry out widlife crimes? It must either be nature conservationists (no, I’ve heard them mentioned), ramblers or people who work for a living in remote upland areas – unless it’s busloads of nurses from the towns of the north and Scotland?
But would a busload of nurses have the motive to kill lots of birds of prey year after year in the same area? They might, though I can’t quite see it myself.
It’s a great puzzle to me. If only some bright people were thinking really hard about it.
What we need to find the bad apple or bad apples is to identify those people spending a lot of time in wildlife crime hotspots with the motive, means and opportunity to commit such crimes. If only we could figure it out then I’m sure we could get these crimes much reduced in number. And we could prove Charlie Jacobey wrong – for he is wrong. The uplands of Britian have an awful lot of bad apples in them. But our government agencies aren’t doing a very good job in finding them.