Thor….

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Today we have received the news that young hen harrier, Thor, as disappeared. It disappoints me greatly that these young tagged birds keep vanishing, but gives me more energy to fight ongoing raptor persecution head-on. The first ever National Raptor Persecution Workshop will take place in November, bringing key individuals together to harness ideas and activity that will deliver a real and long lasting difference, I will then drive this activity through the PPDG.

While it hasn’t been confirmed that this is a result of persecution, the circumstances will naturally lead people to believe this to be the case. I say this because the disappearance has occurred in a location where other hen harriers, namely Hope and Sky also disappeared without trace a few years ago under almost identical circumstances.

The matter has been reported to Lancashire Police and the RSPB and an investigation is underway.

Anybody with any information in relation to this matter should report this to the local police, through telephone 101 or,

RSPB Raptor Persecution Hotline

https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/rspb-appeals-to-shooting-industry-to-help-root-out-raptor-killers/

Crime Stoppers

https://crimestoppers-uk.org/

As the new chair of the Raptor PPDG, I committed to ensuring that there was a single voice when these incidents were bought to my attention.

Unfortunately the National Wildlife Crime Unit and I heard about this matter through blogs on twitter today. I have agreed therefore with the RSPB that we will share this important information between us moving forwards, the PPDG and NWCU having a social media presence is new for everyone and securing this RSPB support is a significant step forwards.

I am working hard behind the scenes with PPDG members to ensure we can respond quickly to these reported incidents, through this blog. PPDG members are committed to responding in this way and the next few weeks will see me progress this further.

While the latest disappearance absolutely needed a PPDG reply, receiving the news late in the day has only allowed me to contact a limited number of group members, a fuller update would have taken time and that PPDG silence will have been filled with conspiracy theory. I know future PPDG updates will include more comprehensive partnership statements.

A Northern England Raptor Forum representative said “NERF members, working alongside the RSPB, located this breeding pair, ringed the young and fitted a satellite tag to Thor. Two other satellite tagged birds, Hope and Sky, ‘disappeared’ in the same location, on a grouse moor. We expect all members of the RPPDG to condemn raptor persecution and work tirelessly to assist the Police in their investigation into this incident”

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association said: “We join this appeal without hesitation and it is vital the police receive any possible information. This year we have been hugely encouraged by the best hen harrier breeding season in a decade and the fact that 60% of this year’s successfully fledged chicks had help from gamekeepers. At this stage it is not known if anything has happened to Thor beyond that the tag has stopped transmitting. It is widely recognised that that there is a high natural mortality rate for young hen harriers with only two out of every ten expected to survive their first year. We all know that collaboration is the key to successful conservation. As such, enhanced transparency and greater sharing of satellite tag data from the outset of birds’ lives would be a huge step in the right direction.”

I will edit this blog further as more PPDG members make contact

****ENDS****

 

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Introductory Blog….

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Let me start with an introduction, I am a Police Superintendent and I have been a police officer now for approaching 18 years. In that time have had the privilege of working with some of the finest people you will ever meet, let it be known that I work with everyday heroes and I am immensely proud to be a cop. I live in a rural village, and while writing this blog can see and hear a Red Kite out of the window, importantly may their continued resurgence be everlasting.

I have recently been appointed as the new National Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group. The Raptor PPDG is one of six such Priority Delivery Groups nationally, and I am extremely proud to have been asked to lead this important work.

Many people reading this blog, my first as National Chair, will know this already but the work of the PPDG focuses in the main on six raptor species, those being

·       Golden Eagle

·       Goshawk

·       Hen Harrier

·       Peregrine

·       Red Kite

·       White-tailed Eagle

I think it is fair to say that of the six species above, the biggest controversy I have seen surrounds the Hen Harrier. The disappearance of so many Hen Harriers across England and Wales in suspicious circumstances will be an absolute priority for all members of the PPDG to tackle head-on. One of the first briefings I will receive is on the work contained within the National Hen Harrier Action Plan, one of the first actions I hope to secure is PPDG member’s agreement on joint press statements following reports of both confirmed persecution incidents and disappearances. The current silence from many PPDG members leaves a void, which is unhelpfully filled by accusations of conspiracy and collusion, the current status quo cannot continue.

In my first couple of weeks as Chair I have taken the time to meet with many people, including my predecessor in the role, Defra Senior Police Advisors and the National Wildlife Crime Unit. These meetings were to ensure I could get as much detail as possible before engaging with the wider raptor community.  A number of people have reached out via Twitter too (@SuptNickLyall) and I look forward to speaking to those individuals over the coming days and weeks, as I look to redefine the work of the PPDG. I had a really helpful conversation with Ruth Tingay this week, thank Ruth!

I have had a series of meetings this week too, including with the RSPB and Moorland Association. At the RSBP I got to spend time with the Investigation Team, who talked me through a number of critical issues within the persecution enforcement area. This meeting gave me plenty of food for thought, and reinforced my view that the PPDG must have an enforcement focused sub-group moving forwards and I have written to a couple of key people asking them to consider chairing this. This sub-group will focus on those people known or suspected of killing birds of prey and will include partners like the Police, RSPB and CPS and report into the PPDG.

Today’s meeting was hosted by the Moorland Association, joining me on this visit was a Senior Policy Advisor for Defra and the Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit. The Chairman and Director took the time to explain to me the work they complete to support a reduction in persecution, including conservation activity. The Moorland Association are committed to working with me as PPDG Chair to eradicate unlawful activity and to release joint statements, in an attempt to breakdown the `them and us` that currently exists, and highlight the good work taking place that currently goes unreported. We had a number of focused discussions during the day and I left reassured that we could start to build a strong partnership to tackle those involved in persecutions offences, including but not exclusively rogue gamekeepers, who tarnish the name of those who add so much to rural life.

The PPDG will become much more balanced in its membership, raptor conservation groups will have a stronger voice, and the group will focus on delivering activity against the three clear strands of Prevention, Intelligence and Enforcement which will all be governed by a newly created Action Delivery Plan.  Community engagement activity will be key if we are to make a difference and every member of the PPDG has a key role to play in delivering real, sustainable change.  I have written to the current PPDG members with a revised Terms of Reference just this past weekend and am already planning a National Raptor Persecution Workshop towards the end of November. Only by everyone working together will we achieve success.

Let me close this first blog by saying this, I will give my all to ensuring the work of the Raptor Persecution PDG becomes focused on genuine and meaningful partnership and community activity to combat raptor persecution across England and Wales. I know this isn’t going to be an easy task, I absolutely know the challenge ahead, and cant wait to start delivering change.

I will keep you all updated through this blog, in the interest of openness and absolute transparency and while you might not agree with what I say, I hope you welcome and value this insight.

I look forward to your interaction and support….