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Quarter of hen harrier chicks vanished in ‘suspicious circumstances’
Scotland has seen a 57 per cent decline on grouse moors since 2010.
RSPB releases data on satellite-tagged birds in Scotland

Over a quarter of hen harrier chicks disappeared in suspicious circumstances last year, according to data from satellite-tagged birds.

The RSPB said tags on some birds suddenly stopped transmitting, despite working perfectly beforehand. One bird’s tag abruptly stopped transmitting over a grouse moor near Ballater on 12 August last year, while another pair of birds disappeared over grouse moors in northern England.

Meanwhile, almost 40 per cent of the birds tagged in 2017 are known to have died from natural causes. Tags continue to transmit after the birds are dead, so the remains can often be recovered and post mortems carried out. The data shows some birds had died from predation, while others had starved.

Birds are tagged as part of the EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project, which is now in its fourth year. This year, the RSPB has so far tagged 30 birds - an unprecedented number. The tags allow conservationists to gather valuable information on the birds’ movements and cause of death.

Hen harrier chicks have a survival rate of just 22 per cent in the first two years of life and the species has declined by 24 per cent in the UK since 2004. Scotland has seen a 57 per cent decline on grouse moors since 2010. Conservationists say illegal persecution is having a hugely detrimental impact on hen harrier numbers.

Dr Cathleen Thomas, project manager for the LIFE project, said: “This species is only just holding on in the UK; it’s both heart-breaking and infuriating that year after year many of these chicks disappear in suspicious circumstances. The loss of birds in this way is both needless and senseless and cannot go on.”

An independent enquiry is currently underway, having been commissioned by Scottish cabinet secretary Roseanna Cunningham to find out how grouse moors can be managed within the law and explore options for its regulation. The panel is expected to report back in spring 2019.

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Nominations for 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards now open

News Story 1
 People across the UK are being urged to nominate a standout animal champion for the 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards.

The awards recognise those who have worked tirelessly to improve animal welfare, campaigned on behalf of animals, or shown true bravery. Previous winners include comedian John Bishop, who was awarded Celebrity Animal Champion of the Year, and 11-year-old Lobby Cantwell, who raised more than £1,000 for the charity through mountain climbs and bike rides.

To submit a nomination or find out more about the awards visit the RSPCA website. Nominations will remain open until 4 pm on Friday, March 15.  

Click here for more...
News Shorts
New £1m project to investigate dairy cow lameness

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is leading a new £1 million research project to investigate the causes of lameness in dairy cows.

One in three dairy cows are affected by lameness every day in the UK, costing the industry an estimated £250 milion annually.

The project will take three years to complete and is due to finish by November 2021.

Professor Georgios Banos of SRUC commented: “In addition to pain and discomfort to the animal, lameness is associated with decreased milk production and inflated farm costs.

“Among cows raised in the same environment, some become lame while others do not. Understanding the reasons behind this will help us develop targeted preventive practices contributing to enhanced animal welfare and farm profitability.”