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Further thoughts on the Raven Research Licence

Jamie Stewart, the Director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance writes: The Scottish Countryside Alliance welcomed the pragmatic approach taken by SNH last week in granting a five-year licence for raven control across part of Perthshire, to learn more about the impact of raven predation on ground nesting birds such as the curlew. In the face of fierce remonstrations, the decision is a win for practical conservation.

Scottish Countryside Alliance

SNH’s opinion, along with the community involved with the trial, is that the ravens in this area could be having a detrimental effect on the breeding success of one of the most vulnerable species in the country. Currently the only information available is first-hand accounts of raven predation and a desk study that concluded more research was needed, so this trial will provide a wider evidence base and a greater understanding of this potential conservation conflict. It might boost curlew populations, or it might not– either way it won’t affect national raven numbers (which have grown 134% in the last 20 years) and in five years’ time we will know more about how to save curlews in Scotland.

One of the main voices of dissent has come from the RSPB, which has voiced the following bizarre view on the issue:

“any help they [curlew] are given to arrest their decline, especially where it might involve the lethal control of other predatory species, needs to be founded on an extremely robust evidence base before such intervention is considered.”

A strange and hypocritical statement for a charity that partakes in the lethal control of thousands of animals annually, has claimed May as “Curlew Crisis Month”, yet will is not prepared to trial raven control to arrest the “crisis”. What makes the lethal control of foxes, which the RSPB already undertake as part of their Curlew Recovery Programme, more acceptable than raven control?
Neither have an impact on the wider population of the controlled species.Rather than fighting against innovation, scientific organisations like the RSPB should be leading the charge of trialling new methods to save species. The calls to stop the trial have been predictably steeped in emotive language and anti-shooting sentiment rather than engagement with the issue. BBC’s Chris Packham in his public letter to SNH said ‘the already beleaguered reputation of SNH lies in bloodied tatters’, an intemperate and entirely unhelpful intervention from the outspoken presenter that hurts not helps the curlew’s chances of survival.

It seems that the rhetoric from these ‘conservationists’ will only end once the curlew has disappeared from our uplands. Fortunately, the SNH and land managers are putting in their own money and time to save this magnificent species. Long may this continue.

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