Our so-called ‘national parks’ are not what many of us imagine. They are neither wilderness nor pristine, nor do they protect the wildlife that lives within them. They are in fact largely privately-owned, large areas are run as shooting clubs for the wealthy, and birds of prey especially are probably safer in parks and farmland.
Over the last twelve months we’ve regularly quoted something Dr Mark Avery said to us for a podcast that is as every bit relevant now as when we recorded it just before Hen Harrier Day 2019: “…our national parks are national parks in name only – when I think of the Peak District National Park I don’t think it’s akin to Yosemite – we ought to put ‘delivering nature’ back into national parks…”
The shooting of yet another Buzzard in the wildlife crime hotspot of the Peak District ‘national park’ (see July’s post Note the quotation marks: ‘Appeal after ”protected” Peak District buzzard is shot) ’proves Mark’s point, and will come as little surprise to anyone paying attention. Raptors are frequently killed (shot and poisoned) in ‘national parks’, and we’ve reported on that fact many times. That is because ‘national parks’ (in both England and Scotland) are heavily gamekeepered, are blighted with grouse shooting estates, and birds of prey are simply not tolerated. Anyone walking anywhere near a shooting estate in a ‘national park’ looking for birds of prey won’t find them. They are barely there.
Buzzards have made a remarkable comeback after decades and decades of suppression. Many people will be unaware of what an unusual sight Buzzards mewing overhead used to be as recently as the 1970s, but it seems that we shouldn’t take these recovering populations for granted. While conservationists and birders have welcomed the birds back to areas that they had been driven out of, the ‘voices of the countryside’ (eg the verbose Robin Page) mutter darkly about there being ‘too many’ Buzzards, blaming them for everything from the decline of Skylarks to climate change.
To quote the press-release below, RSPB data shows that the Buzzard was the most persecuted raptor in the UK in 2019. It looks like that persecution won’t be slowing down anytime soon, and while they’re being killed on or close to grouse shooting moors (see eg here and here) it’s clear who is to blame. Back in May this slaughter was reflecting so appallingly badly on the shooting industry that the Shooting Times editor Patrick Galbraith tweeted that “If we don’t take the bull by the horns, the future looks bleak“. The demise of this crime-ridden industry might indeed be seen as bleak by some (mostly those who enjoy using sentient beings for target practice), but it will be warmly welcomed by many others. In fact it can’t come soon enough.
Young buzzard found dead had been illegally shot
The RSPB is appealing for information regarding the death of a protected buzzard in Little Hayfield, within the Peak District National Park between Manchester and Sheffield.
A local resident found the buzzard, a juvenile which had hatched this summer, freshly dead on 5 September 2020, in a paddock adjacent to woodland and a driven grouse moor. They contacted Derbyshire Police on 101 and reported it to the RSPB. The body was x-rayed by a local vet who identified a broken leg and a piece of lead shot lodged within the bird’s chest. It is possible that the injuries were sustained at different times during the bird’s short life.
All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.
Tom Grose, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “This was a tragic end to the life of a young bird which had barely begun to spread its wings. The sight of a buzzard soaring overhead is part of the pleasure of being out in the Peak District. This is one of our most visited National Parks and should be a place people can go to enjoy nature, and a place in which nature is protected.
“Buzzards are sadly highly vulnerable to illegal killing, and RSPB data shows that more buzzards were the object of persecution in 2019 than any other raptor species. While it’s not clear whether shooting was the cause of death, it’s clear that this bird had been illegally shot at some point in its very short life. We are therefore appealing to the public for information.”
If you have any information relating to this or any other raptor persecution incident, call Derbyshire Police on 101.
If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB Investigations at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx
Alternatively, if you have sensitive information about this or any other raptor crime which you wish to share anonymously, you can call the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101.RSPB, 19 Nov 2020