Operation Wingspan | Raptor Persecution

Back in December last year we wrote about the launching of Operation Wingspan, an initiative to tackle wildlife crime in Scotland based on the seven wildlife crime priorities set out by the UK Wildlife Crime Tasking and Co-ordination Group and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

These priorities are:

  • Trade in Endangered Species
  • Badger Persecution
  • Bat Crime
  • Poaching of Freshwater Pearl Mussels
  • Deer poaching/coursing, fish poaching and hare coursing
  • Raptor Persecution
  • and Cyber-enabled wildlife crime

A few months on and Operation Wingspan has produced a new video aiming to help tackle raptor persecution in Scotland. Anyone already interested in the awful rates of persecution of birds of prey on Scotland’s grouse moors will probably not find anything new in this video, but then it almost certainly isn’t aimed at those in the know. This video, it seems to us, is meant to bring raptor persecution to a new audience, because as has been said at umpteen Hen Harrier Days, raptor conferences, and campaign marches the general public (depressingly given the coverage) aren’t even entirely sure what a ‘raptor’ is, let alone the fact that gamekeepers are under orders to eradicate them from the uplands and from woodlands all over the UK.

There have of course been some remarkable progress led by absolute heroes who have worked incredibly hard to lift the lid off raptor persecution (and that lid was firmly bolted down!). The names of Drs Ruth Tingay and Mark Avery come to mind, along with Chris Packham, the RSPB’s Mark Thomas and Dr Cathleen Thomas, and OneKind’s Bob Eliot. But while they have all shone lights into corners that the shooting industry has worked incredibly hard to keep dark, there is no question that more pressure needs to be put on politicians and senior police officers to strengthen legislation and take action to enforce and convict criminals who have found it all too easy to ‘get away with it’ in the recent past.

We wrote recently about the multi-agency investigations that have taken place in England this year on the back of multiple poisonings and shooting of Buzzards and Red Kites, hopefully Operation Wingspan will help landowners and estate managers realise that raptor persecution will no longer be tolerated in any part of the UK.

Perhaps it might even put rockets up the backsides of statutory agencies like Nature Scot and Natural England who – bewilderingly – give the impression that they’d rather kowtow to the demands of the shooting and agrcicultural industries than to protecting wildlife (see for example Hen Harrier brood meddling 101). No, we’re not holding our breath either, but you never know…


Police Scotland and RSPB Scotland work together to tackle wildlife crime. Operation Wingspan is a Police Scotland campaign to raise awareness about wildlife crime and what we can do to stop it. In this video Police wildlife crime officer Dan Sutherland and RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations Ian Thomson discuss how working together on the illegal killing of birds of prey.