With June ending locating a missing peregrine chick in Bedfordshire with the RSPB, a visit to local company Opticron and a TV interview with local news broadcaster ITV Anglia on Operation Owl, July looked like being an equally busy month in the fight against raptor persecution.
On the 3rd July I was in York for the latest RPPDG meeting. Lots more progress made against our Delivery Plan and some really useful updates on the nesting success of this year’s Hen Harriers, the White-tailed Sea Eagle release on the Isle of Wight later this summer and the Golden Eagle release in Southern Scotland. The following week I had a meeting with Martin Ball from the Health & Safety Executive to discuss a number of issues with the WIIS scheme. Lots of positive progress made and some good ideas about how we can work together to make better use of WIIS in raptor persecution cases.
I had a long drive to Cardiff Bay to meet with Lesley Griffiths (Welsh Minister for Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs. I was delighted that The Minister offered to become a Species Champion for Raptors in Wales and has offered to Chair a round-table discussion later this year on raptor persecution. While is Wales I took the time to meet with the CEO of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, Ian Evans. A really useful discussion about the conflict that exists between racers and raptors, mainly the Peregrine.
Later that week I hosted Chief Superintendent Gary Cunningham of Police Scotland. Gary has recently taken over the Wildlife Crime Portfolio and as a career detective has a real passion to see those committing raptor persecution offences face their day in Court. I am really excited about the work that Gary and I will be able to do together, with the wider support of the NWCU and Wildlife Crime Officers from across the UK to ensure those responsible are caught.
The week closed with a visit to South Yorkshire Police, where along with Angela Smith MP, Liz Ballard (CEO Wildlife Trust) and Mark Thomas (RSPB Investigations) we met with the Chief Constable to discuss the forces approach to investigating Wildlife Crime.
The 16th July was a long, hot and busy day in London. Having been invited by the Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP, to his Environment Speech at Kew Gardens. It is clear that a number of changes are being planned by the Government to support tackling the ongoing climate emergency. Let’s hope Brexit and the Cabinet reshuffle doesn’t get in the way of meaningful progress.
Later that evening I was a panel member on an RSPB hosted debate in Parliament. The subject matter was `Rethinking Grouse Moor Management` and my message was clear, those within the industry that know who is committing persecution offences need to come forward and start talking. They can contact me directly, contact Crime Stopper, contact the RSPB Raptor Persecution Hotline or contact their local police. It feels like change is happening, and with the support of those `in the know` we can make that change happen a lot quicker.
On the 23rd July I took a day trip to Edinburgh to meet with a prominent land agent to discuss raptor persecution and how he felt the industry could support the work of the RPPDG in tackling the issue. A full, frank and extremely honest conversation about the issues, what drove persecution and some really good thoughts about how to prevent it. I look forward to progressing these.
On the 26th July I was invited to attend `The Game Fair` by the Chief Exec of BASC, Ian Bell. I was delighted to be able to accept his offer and the attend the day in the company of Chief Inspector Lou Hubble (NWCU). The weather didn’t dampen the conversations I was able to have with a number of people, including the National Gamekeepers Organisation and senior members of BASC. A number of firm commitments made by all, that I look forward to working on and talking about more in due course, but rest assured there was an absolute will to stamp out raptor persecution from everyone I spoke to.
To close the month I will circulating to a number of forces the combined RPPDG & National Wildlife Crime Unit Operational Order and Trigger Plan to the upcoming (White-tailed) Sea Eagle release on the Isle of Wight. This plan, developed with the support of Police WCOs and the Project Team will ensure a robust response is in place should anything happen to the Eagles following their release. Let’s hope we never need to test it.
I complete almost all this work in my own time, making up any hours I miss from my core role with Bedfordshire Police in the evenings or at weekends. Throughout July I have been subjected to some rather unpleasant abuse across social media platforms by a small number of people for the work I am doing in tackling raptor persecution. While isn’t unexpected, it is still disappointing. Unfortunately for those involved, it just makes me stronger and want to work harder to end persecution.
“If they attack you personally, it means they have not a single argument left” – Margaret Thatcher
So as I go into a week of on-call and working some nights with my response officers, before a couple of weeks annual leave, I hope to see some of you at `Birds of Prey Day` on 10th August, `Hen Harrier Day` on 11th August or The Bird Fair on the 16th August.