IT was a source of celebration a year ago when Scotland welcomed a new Golden Eagle to its flock.
Named ‘Fred’, he hatched on location in the Borders last June, was fitted with a state-of-the art tracking device and off he flew.
A few lucky twitchers managed to glimpse his magnificence, as he migrated slowly towards Edinburgh and the Pentlands.
Conservationists recorded him roosting near Balerno on January 20. His tag stopped suddenly the next day, before starting again in the North Sea on the 24th and finally two days later.
“As far as the RSPB is concerned, it is highly suspicious,” says Ian Thomson, head of investigations at RSPB Scotland, “These tags are state of the art technology used all over the world – they don’t just stop working.”
He has theories. All at the charity do. And they have shared them with Police Scotland who have launched an invetsigation of their own.
“Inquiries have been conducted with the relevant partners to trace the bird,” Police Scotland said, “Officers would ask anyone with information to report this to them via 101.”
Those who know the area towards the hills in Edinburgh can’t overlook the fact that it borders moorland used for shoots. Partridge, grouse, it has varied over the years.
Which is why the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Assocation has been quick to fire off a volley of defensive quotes, implying the likes of TV presenter Chris Packham and others of jabbing the environmental finger of blame in their direction, saying members have been the victim of ‘trial by media’, demanding someone shows them proof.
“It is not enough for people to be implied as being criminals and those in possession of the satellite tag evidence to walk away, after presenting their judgement to the media, then say no one will probably ever know what has happened,” they said.
The matter was raised at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday when Lothian MSP Alison Johnstone drew the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham into the fray, asking for support to investigate whether the “young eagle has been illegally killed”. A meeting is to be added to the diary.
Whatever happened to Fred, whatever caused his likely demise, is about to come under further scrutiny still.
Chas Booth, Green group representative for Leith, has lodged a multi-layered motion with City of Edinburgh Council, in which he hopes members will note it’s ‘suspicious disappearance’,
He wants them to consider where the last location was recorded, how both the RSPB and Raptor Persecution UK bodies view the disappearance, note Scottish Government studies and laws under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 over persecution, and existing calls for game shooting estates to face evolved licensing laws and potential penalties.
In his motion, he will also ask the Transport and Environment Committee to agree ‘that the Council Leader will write to the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment expressing the council’s grave concern at this incident, asking her to outline a timetable for the introduction of the licensing of game-shooting estates; offering the council’s cooperation with any such licensing regime, and offering the council’s support for consideration of stiffer penalties for wildlife crime’ and also to ‘refer the matter to the Pentland Hills Regional Park Joint Committee, to ask them to consider writing to landowners in the region highlighting this incident and encouraging them to report any suspicious activity to Police Scotland or the RSPB.’
Mr Booth said: “I hope the council will approve my motion on Thursday, to send a clear message that wildlife crime will not be tolerated in Scotland’s capital. I also urge the Pentlands Hills Regional Park authority to engage with landowners in the area to encourage them to report any suspicious behaviour to police.”