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Wednesday, 27 December, 2000, 15:46 GMT
'Disastrous' year for golden eagles
Golden Eagle
The golden eagle has been targeted
A bird protection agency claims that a record number of golden eagles were illegally killed during the year.

In the last 12 months at least three birds were poisoned at various locations around Scotland, says the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

And it now fears the 421 pairs remaining north of the Border could be under threat of persecution on farms and sporting estates.

I am saddened that once again only some owners and managers of sporting estates have condemned this illegal activity

Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland
Senior investigations officer for the RSPB Scotland, Dave Dick, said this year had been "disastrous" for the birds.

"There is no question that these crimes have been particularly targeted at golden eagles," said Mr Dick.

"Golden eagles are a Scottish icon and it is a disgrace that crimes like this are still being committed across Scotland.

"These three birds were all found poisoned in areas traditionally good for golden eagles.

"Sadly a large majority of poisoning incidents take place on sporting estates - too many for pure coincidence.

"The only reason why there are not more golden eagles in Scotland is because of persecution."

Tougher measures

Mr Dick said it was likely the eagles were poisoned as they were suspected of feeding on rabbits, lambs and other birds of prey.

The death toll has led Stuart Housden, director of the RSPB Scotland, to call on estate managers to ensure birds are not targeted in the future.

Sam Galbraith
Environment Minister Sam Galbraith wants tougher measures
He said: "I am saddened that once again only some owners and managers of sporting estates have condemned this illegal activity."

The three poisoned birds were found in the Perthshire Hills, Sutherland and in the south of the Monadhliadh Mountains.

Golden eagles are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Environment Minister Sam Galbraith said recently the Scottish Executive would publish a policy statement on wildlife law reform.

This is likely to contain proposals for tougher measures to deter and punish wildlife criminals, including the prospect of prison sentences for habitual offenders.

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10 Oct 00 | Scotland
Anger over bird death toll
23 May 00 | Scotland
Protected eagle found poisoned
20 Sep 99 | UK
Bird crimes on the increase
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