The RSPB yesterday published this press release, regarding a raven found illegally killed in the Peak District National Park. The bird was killed by poisoning with Aldicarb, an extremely toxic substance banned from use over a decade ago.
The reported police response was disappointing to say the least and there have been at least a couple of instances of proven and suspected raptor persecution where we have been surprised that South Yorkshire Police made no request for information from the public.
For many years South Peak Raptor Study Group and Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group have voiced their concerns about the plight of the raven as a breeding species in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park.
Each year a high percentage of monitored pairs fail to nest successfully. On subsequent nest visits, previously occupied nests are often found to be abandoned. The frequency that this scenario occurs without any natural explanation leads us to believe that the principal reason for such failures must be illegal persecution.
On the 24th of March 2018 just a few days before the discovery of the poisoned bird, a raptor field worker visited a raven nest close to where this poisoned bird was found. At that time the raven nest was well built up and two raven were present in the vicinity. The nesting attempt failed to progress and once again we were left wondering what caused this breeding failure. It has only now become apparent that the poisoned bird was probably one of the nesting pair.
The 2018 Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative Report (page 12) provides clear evidence of an ongoing campaign of illegal persecution targeting raptors in the Dark Peak.
Raptor persecution is difficult to prove, birds often nest in remote areas and persecution no doubt takes places when witnesses are least likely to be present. Usually, we only discover the reason for such failures when the RSPB Investigations Team reports on an incident such as this or releases video evidence of a criminal caught in the act.
It was hoped that indiscriminate poisoning of wildlife was a thing of the past, however querying the RSPB Raptor Persecution Data Hub reveals that that there were 65 confirmed raptor poisoning incidents in England between 2012 & 2017.
This is the second wildlife poisoning incident that Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group are aware of in this area in recent years.
In 2015, less than 10 km from where this bird must have been found, a raptor field worker recovered a total of 13 dead black-headed gulls from a reservoir. The Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) were informed but would not accept them so in this instance the RSPB paid to have one of the birds tested privately. Once it was confirmed that this bird had indeed been poisoned, the birds were accepted into the scheme. WIIS concluded “Dead gulls were found at a reservoir. Analysis has confirmed a residue of alpha-chloralose in the kidney of one of the gulls, which is likely to account for the death of the gull. Case closed”.