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Police Scotland confirm rare white-tailed eagle found in Cairngorms was poisoned

By Tom Ramage

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A police officer with the poisoned bird earlier this year
A police officer with the poisoned bird earlier this year

Police Scotland has today (Monday) confirmed that a rare white-tailed sea eagle found dead earlier this year was poisoned.

The bird of prey was recovered from Donside, Aberdeenshire, in April.

A post mortem has now established it died as a result of pesticide poisoning. It had been satellite tagged.

The death is being treated as suspicious. An investigation is ongoing and Police Scotland is appealing for information to help identify those responsible.

White-tailed sea eagles were re-introduced into Scotland in the 1970s after becoming extinct in the UK in the early 1900s.

There are now over 150 breeding pairs in Scotland.

Police Inspector Sheila McDerment, who chairs the North East Partnership Against Wildlife Crime, said: “As well as being illegal, poisoning is a cruel way to kill a bird. It also puts the lives of other creatures and plants at risk and impacts negatively on our environment.

"This incident is particularly upsetting because these rare and beautiful birds had been re-introduced to Scotland after being extinct throughout the UK.

"Raptor persecution is one of six priorities set by the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit. In the North East we work closely with a number of partners to tackle wildlife crime.

"Members of the public are our eyes and ears. I appeal to anyone out there who may hold any information about this incident to help us bring the offender to justice by coming forward and telling us what they know.”

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations said: “The news that this bird has been illegally poisoned is appalling. This crime would never have come to light had the bird not been fitted with a satellite tag, and the killing of this young eagle can be added to a litany of raptor persecution incidents in recent years, including previous poisonings and multiple disappearances of similarly-tagged birds of prey.

"Poisoning is vicious and indiscriminate and we join with Police Scotland in appealing for information.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Gary Cunningham, Wildlife Crime lead for Police Scotland, said: “Scotland’s rich, rare and diverse wildlife and landscapes are among its biggest attractions.

"We cannot allow the indiscriminate use of poisons and pesticides to threaten our natural heritage.

"Police Scotland, working with our key partners, is committed to protecting our wildlife habitats and to bringing those who seek to destroy or harm it, to justice.”

Anyone with information would help the police investigation can contact Police Scotland on 101, quoting crime reference number CF0160960720.

Information can also be reported anonymously by contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “Given the major progress made in virtually eradicating illegal wildlife poisoning in Scotland, hearing this news is extremely disappointing.

"The SGA condemns it wholeheartedly. In 2010, there were 32 wildlife poisonings in Scotland. That was unacceptable.

"The SGA committed to Scottish Government that we would do all we could to address the issue within our own industry.

"We delivered on that promise. Today, thankfully, these cases are now extremely rare in this country.

"This incident sets back considerable progress made by stakeholders over the last decade- and more- in addressing poisoning.

"The SGA fully supported the Scottish Government’s illegal pesticide amnesty in 2015 and continues to educate on this subject.

"We acknowledge sea eagles can pose problems in land management; something which is well documented, but this is absolutely the wrong way to address a conflict. The SGA reiterates its condemnation.”

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