Guest Article from Jonathan Hughs CEO of the Scottish Wildlife Trust
We are living through an unprecedented period of human history. The United Nations estimate there will be 9.6 billion people on earth by 2050. In the UK, the population is predicted to reach well over 70 million by that time, putting extra pressure on our already stressed natural ecosystems.
4/4/2017 7 Comments
Martin Keivers speaks to Rewild Scotland and reflects on a 30 year relationship with White Tailed Sea Eagles.
Over the years I have been asked many questions. When people hear my accent for the first time it usually has the same effect and triggers their inquisitive side ‘’where are you from?’’ or ‘’that’s not a Scottish accent’’ are the favourite comments. For some reason it shocks people to find a renegade Yorkshireman living on the island of Mull and running boat trips to see the White Tailed Eagles. And I suppose I can see why, so let me tell you. When I first visited Mull as a young man in his twenties the very first breeding attempts for the eagles were just being made following the reintroduction programme which had started in 1975. Hunting and persecution had slowly and inexorably forced the last few of these magnificent birds to the furthest outposts of our islands where they were followed and exterminated. Thankfully as we progressed through the 20th century we began to miss these iconic and once revered birds and a plan to bring them back to their native home was hatched. The rest as they say is history but when I first visited Mull they were still extremely rare and knowledge of their whereabouts was a closely guarded secret.
This picture from 28th February 2017 shows one morning's work by game keepers on the Farr estate. This truck load of shot Scottish mountain hares could easily have fed a golden eagle for a year. Food for golden eagles late in the winter is often scarce so why let this cull continue? The answer is simple. To allow a few people to shoot c700,000 red grouse a year. The reason that hares are killed is that they pose a threat to the grouse population. Yes, in some places there may be many hares but if you shoot all the foxes, poison the golden eagles - also to protect the grouse - and refuse to consider the reintroduction of the lynx that will be the result.
There is of course an important economic argument here. Rural communities must flourish in Scotland. However the intensive management of Driven Grouse Moors, resulting in the killing of species in huge numbers such as badgers, stoats, weasels, snakes, pine martins, raptors, corvids, foxes, mountain hare - the list goes on - is unsustainable. There will always be a place for hunting and stalking in Scotland, as we understand this is a passion for some people. We certainly have enough red deer for shooting to survive in Scotland but land owners must diversify away from Driven Grouse Shooting. What are the opportunities to do this for Scottish Estates? Well, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust believe that grouse shooting is worth around £23m to Scotland, Visit Scotland's 2015 target for Wildlife and Adventure tourism in Scotland was £849m, with this figure set to rise. The reintroduction of sea eagles to Scotland brings in over £5m a year to the island of Mull alone, supporting 110 jobs. Therefore there surely must be many exciting, financially attractive, reasons to successfully diversify away from Driven Grouse Shooting and use our land in more imaginative ways for the benefit of all wildlife and all people.
No more shot, poisoned, trapped or 'hungry' golden eagles and a healthy balanced number of mountain hare is achievable in Scotland through imaginative change of land use.