Sporting estate bird culling licence ban extended over ‘wildlife crime’

Scottish Natural Heritage has forbidden Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire to use general licences for a further two years.

Sporting estate bird culling licence ban extended over ‘wildlife crime’ PA Media

A wildlife watchdog has extended a sporting estate’s ban on securing licences to legally kill some wild birds, citing “additional evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime against birds”.

NatureScot has extended the ban on Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire use of general licences until 2023, having issued a three-year ban in 2019.

The licences enable land managers to carry out otherwise illegal actions, including killing some wild bird species to protect crops or livestock.

A spokesman for the estate said it has not seen the evidence behind the ban and is considering an appeal against the decision.

Robbie Kernahan, NatureScot’s sustainable growth director, said: “It is hugely disappointing to have to be considering further issues of wildlife crime against wild birds and we are committed to using the tools we have available to us in tackling this.

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“In this case we have concluded that there is enough evidence to suspend the general licences on this property for a further three years. They may still apply for individual licences, but -if granted – these will be closely monitored.

“We work closely with Police Scotland and will continue to consider information they provide us on cases which may warrant restriction of general licences.

“The detection of wildlife crime can be difficult but new and emerging technologies along with a commitment from a range of partners to take a collective approach to these issues will help us stop this from occurring in the future.”

In 2019, Springwatch presenter Chris Packham spoke out after a hen harrier found on the estate, believed to have been caught in an illegally set trap, was so badly injured it had to be put down.

The estate said it was not blame for the bird’s death and an internal investigation found no estate worker was involved in setting the illegal traps.

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A spokesman for the estate said on Wednesday: “The estate is extremely disappointed by this decision and is actively considering an appeal against it.

“We have yet to see the evidence leading to this decision and have been requesting this information from the relevant authorities. Without that evidence, we question the justification for such a decision, which is likely to have an impact on wildlife on the estate.

“There has been no commercial driven grouse shooting on the estate for several years and the moorland is managed on a care and maintenance basis.

“The estate has a zero tolerance approach to wildlife crime and has robust compliance systems in place.

“Employees are fully aware of their responsibilities with regard to the conservation of wildlife and we are confident that wildlife crimes have not been committed by anyone employed on the estate.”