A group of gamekeepers and farmers will exterminate hundreds of ravens over a five year period
Conservationists have reacted with fury and disbelief at the decision to allow a mass cull of ravens in Scotland.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has issued a licence authorising the slaughter of hundreds of birds by gamekeeping and farming interests over a large area of Perthshire.
The five year experiment is supposedly to see what impact the ravens’ removal has on populations of wading birds.
Scotland's Raptor Persecution group reports that the licence has been granted to an entity called Strathbraan Community for Waders.
According to its licence application, which is supported by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, it “represents some of the local land management (farmers, gamekeepers) and private interests in the area who value wading birds for their biodiversity, social and economic value to the area and to Scotland more widely.”
The area where the cull will be carried out also happens to cover several grouse shooting estates, taking in an area which is notorious as a “black hole” for wildlife crime, most especially the destruction of endangered birds of prey.
Grouse shooting interests have been put in the frame for the killings.
Just this week, it was reported that a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle has gone missing in mysterious circumstances in the Glen Quaich area, which will be covered by the cull licence.
This is the fourth satellite-tagged eagle (the other three have been golden eagles) to go missing in this area since 2014.
Raptor Persecution has written a blog detailing its alarm and concernabout the licence, calling into question its motives and basic science.
It has asked people to email Mike Cantlay, SNH chair, calling on him to withdraw the licence.
Raven populations in Scotland are only beginning to recover after centuries of persecution by gamekeeping interests.
The largest of the crow family, they are well known as one of the most intelligent bird species.
Robbie Kernahan, SNH head of wildlife, said: “We understand the concerns over wildlife crime in Strathbraan, but we are also clear that the granting of this licence is wholly unconnected to the issues concerned.
“This licence is about a pressing and complex conservation issue. It is a large-scale collaborative trial which will help improve our understanding of factors affecting key wader species, populations of which are declining at an alarming rate. We are satisfied this licence will not affect the population of ravens overall, and is over a five year period.
“The licence places significant responsibility and expectations on all those involved – to be able to show that this approach can work and will help deliver what are essentially shared objectives.
"Trust is a key element of this and this presents a great opportunity to develop that trust and relationships with all involved. If it becomes apparent that actions are not being carried out in accordance with the terms of any licence then we will have no hesitation in removing the licence.”