Tests on 12 of the birds confirm they digested a "poisonous substance"
Police Scotland has carried out searches on the Black Isle, where the number of dead birds of prey found had increased to 19 as Shooting Times went to press. Police have also said that tests have confirmed that 12 of the birds had digested a “poisonous substance.”
Initial searches are believed to have focused on farms around Conon Brae. Residents told The Inverness Courier that up to ten police cars were involved in operations on 9 April, in “a full- blown raid” involving searches of farmhouses, barns, yards and fields.
Fourteen red kites and five buzzards have now been found withint a two-mile area. A spokeswoman for Police Scotland implied that other finds had been reported, which may also turn out to be relevant to the ongoing investiation. She also confirmed that police were conducting searches in the area in relation to the deaths of the birds and that landowners were co-operating with the searches.
The deaths have shocked landowners, farmers, members of the fieldsports community and birdwatchers alike and have been roundly condemned. Outrage against the killings is such that a public march through Inverness was held on 12 April and a reward (from the public, organisations and charity money) pledged for information leading to a successful conviction stoof at more than £26,000 on 11 April.
RSPB Scotland set the ball rolling by offering £5,000, and was then contacted by an anonymous donor, who took the total to £10,000. More than 191 members of the public have also contributed £4,720 via an online donation page set up by RSPB Scotland on the JustGiving website.
The total offered was taken to an unprecedented level by local members of Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) and the National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS), who have come together to pledge £12,000.
Alex Matheson from the Brahan estate, which operates a red kite centre in partnership with the RSPB, is one of those involved in organising the reward. Mr Matheson summed up feelings on the matter and the determination to combat wildlife crimes such as this, saying: “We have been appalled by these tragic and senseless bird deaths. By pulling together as a community to do all we can to help, we want to send a strong and clear message that any form of wildlife crime is totally unacceptable. We would urge anyone who has any information to come forward.
“Scottish Land & Estates and NFUS have both fully supported this initiative. We call on all sections of our local communities to work with the police — and through appropriate organisations such as Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland — to create effective partnerships in order that we can totally eradicate all incidents of wildlife crime.”
Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association Alex Hogg said: “We are pleased to see the police investigations into this alarming and worrying incident in Ross-shire have moved on a stage and are hopeful they will get any additional support they require to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion. We continue to urge anyone who knows anything to speak to those dealing with it.
“It is obviously imperative that justice prevails here and that the appropriate punishment for this offence is applied.”
Jim Whiteford of the NFUS described the deaths as “a horrifying and disgusting incident”.
All organisations have urged anyone with information relating to the deaths to contact Police Scotland, tel 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously, tel 0800 555 111.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the NFUS / SLE fund should contact the Brahan estate directly via email at reward@brahan. com. To donate to the RSPB fund, visit www.justgiving.com/wildlifecrimescotland.