“‘Calluna’, a female harrier, was tagged this summer at a nest on the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge estate, near Braemar. We were monitoring her transmitter’s data which showed that she fledged from the nest in July. She left the area in early August, and gradually headed east over the Deeside moors. However, while the tag data showed it to be working perfectly, transmissions abruptly ended on 12th August, with no further data transmitted. Calluna’s last recorded position was on a grouse moor a few miles north of Ballater, in the Cairngorms National Park.” http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/skydancer/b/skydancer/archive/2017/09/01/calluna-has-disappeared.aspx
Representatives of the shooting lobby have already stated the ridiculous. My work is done.
Response of Scottish Land & Estates – “Estates in the area have welcomed a number of hen harriers to the area during August and only today one moor reported three harriers. Local land managers reject the inference that the loss of signal from this tag is connected to grouse moor management and are now offering every assistance in searching the area where the last transmission was recorded.“
Response of Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association – “The SGA would urge anyone who saw the bird or knows anything about it to contact Police Scotland. This is the first we have heard of this. Obviously any news like this is very disappointing. The SGA condemns raptor persecution and if any of our members are convicted of a wildlife crime they are removed from our organisation. We have learned from those monitoring tags that birds can move some distance away from where they were last recorded so it is important that, if people know anything, they alert the Police immediately.”
Response of Scottish Association for Country Sports – “We would remind the RSPB that tag technology can fail for a number of reasons, and that raptors are susceptible to natural causes of death as well as to illegal persecution.“
“These eight birds have all disappeared in an area where driven grouse moor management dominates the landscape, and where there have been many previous cases of illegal killing of protected raptors, including the poisoning of a golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle as recently as 2010.
Given the reliability of the transmitters, the chance of so many birds disappearing over such a short timescale without some kind of human interference is so small as to be negligible. The pattern we see here is consistent with the birds having been killed and the transmitters destroyed.” (http://www.rspb.org.uk/media/releases/423406-satellite-tagged-golden-eagles-disappearing-in-the-monadhliath-mountains)
“I have instructed officials to analyse the evidence from around 90 surviving and missing satellite-tagged eagles, to discover if there is a pattern of suspicious activity. … The public rightly expects all businesses in Scotland to obey the law. Let me be clear: grouse shooting is no exception.” (http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Eagle-disappearance-review-2881.aspx)
Let’s not leap to any conclusions: this could be the work of extreme conservationists, systematically bumping off birds of prey in the vicinity of grouse moors over decades in a bid to undermine the inglorious twelfth. Or alien abductions. Or spontaneous combustion.
Perhaps the role specifications may offer clues:
“Support the delivery of the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS)”
“Working with a range of partners, customers and colleagues to implement changes in the delivery of land use work.”
“Building partnerships with customers (primarily LPAs [Local Planning Authorities]) and stakeholders to resolve complex and often contentious planning issues and to develop collaborative strategic land use approaches to conserving and enhancing the natural environment.”
Curiously open to interpretation. “Changes.” “Enhancing.”
“Spotting opportunities for income generation through our Discretionary Advice Service including preparing Customer Contracts and delivering the service specified.”
“Spot opportunities around income generation, draw up contracts and work with customers on Pre Application advice.”