NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Reward offered after footage shows bid to kill goshawks

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Media captionPolice said the men seemed to be attempting to kill the birds

Men suspected of trying to kill protected goshawks in Aberdeenshire are being sought after being captured by a special video camera.

RSPB Scotland deployed the camera on Forestry Commission land in May 2014 to monitor a nest at Glenochty, Strathdon.

Footage shows a group of men repeatedly visiting the area. Police said they seemed to be attempting to kill the birds and destroy the nest.

RSPB Scotland is offering £1,000 for information leading to a conviction.

Ian Thomson, head of investigations at RSPB Scotland, said: "This video footage captured by our camera shows what appears to be an illegal incident involving the deliberate targeting of one of our rarest and specially protected birds of prey.

"We are appealing to anybody with information about this incident to contact the police or Crimestoppers as a matter of urgency.

"On account of serious concerns about the impacts of illegal activity on the Scottish goshawk population, RSPB Scotland is now offering a reward of £1,000 for any information that subsequently leads to a successful conviction in this case."


Analysis

David Miller, BBC Scotland environment correspondent

A group of armed men, their faces covered, make their way through a forest.

The crack of gunfire rings out.

The images are dramatic, but they show the frontline in Scotland's battle against wildlife crime.

So why would anyone go to such extraordinary lengths to kill rare and protected birds of prey?

The men in this case haven't been identified. Their motive hasn't been established beyond doubt.

But goshawks feed on game birds, among several other species.

That has traditionally brought them into conflict with gamekeepers.

These days, organisations like the Scottish Gamekeepers' Association routinely and regularly condemn wildlife crime.

But raptor persecution continues, although its extent is disputed.

Will we see charges or even convictions in this case?

It seems unlikely.

The men took care to protect their identities.

Wildlife crime investigators often complain about "the wall of silence" they encounter in such cases.

And many months have passed since the incidents took place.

Questions will inevitably be asked about why it took the police so long to release the video.

We have had no answers from them so far.


Environment minister Aileen McLeod said: "This is an important appeal by Police Scotland on a clearly planned and deliberate attempt to target a protected species. I would strongly urge anyone with any information to call the police as soon as possible."

A spokesman for Scottish Land and Estates said: "We were shocked to see the video released today of masked men shooting at a Goshawk nest in May 2014 on land owned by the Forestry Commission.

"Any incident like this of attempted killing of a protected bird of prey or destruction of its nest is illegal and to be condemned.

"We support the police appeal for further information."

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