RSPB Scotland Conservation Manager, Stuart Benn, tells us about a recent protest against raptor persecution in Inverness.
It’s time to get MAD about wildlife crime!
In late March, at least 14 red kites and 5 buzzards were poisoned near Inverness making it one of the worst recorded cases of bird of prey killing ever in the UK.
Of course, the RSPB condemned the killings but what made this one different was that the reaction from others was equally immediate and loud. Within days local people had set up their own Facebook page to voice their anger and sorrow - both took off highlighting the level of public disgust.
A reward for info leading to a successful conviction was set up and currently stands at £27000 (Just Giving page here). As of today, 199 individuals have donated £5000 and local landowners and farmers have contributed a fantastic £12000.
And when the RSPB in North Scotland organised a demonstration against the killings in Inverness city centre, hundreds came, listened to a piper play a lament, carried ‘ghost’ raptors which they chalked round, and added their messages. Never before have so many people gathered in one place to show how much they like birds of prey and what they think of those that do harm to them.
None of this would have happened a few years ago. Certainly in the North of Scotland they were seen as the RSPB’s kites and, if anyone killed them, well that was seen as someone else’s problem to sort out. But some absolutely brilliant work between a whole army of stupendous volunteers, the local communities, landowners and the RSPB has turned all that around.
Now they are everyone’s kites, as much a part of ‘ordinary’ people’s lives as doing the shopping or watching the telly. They love their kites, they make them feel good and now anyone that harms kites harms them. At the demonstration I saw people in tears – that’s how much those dead birds meant to them. Birds they won’t see out the kitchen window, when they go for a walk, when they drive in and out of Inverness.
The chalk outlines of the kites and buzzards will have been scuffed off the streets of Inverness by now but the memory of the day and the resolve to keep fighting won’t be erased so easily.
The people have spoken, they are going to continue to speak, they aren’t going to go away, they aren’t going to shut up. Those who have it in their power to put an end to raptor killing would do well to listen.
On the back of this protest, the community campaign 'Let's get MAD for wildlife' has developed a petition for people to sign. We are petitioning Paul Wheelhouse MSP to extend the investigative powers of the SSPCA with regards to wildlife Crime in Scotland. If granted, this will represent a significant step forwards towards stamping out wildlife crime in the future.