Monday 23 April 2018


The Curlew is regarded as the UK's most pressing conservation concern
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has backed the granting of a research license by SNH in Perthshire to control abundant raven populations in an urgent bid to save crashing wading bird numbers.
The licensing authority has granted a 5 year research license to the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders in a bid to save birds such as the Curlew, now described as the UK’s most pressing conservation concern.
Curlew numbers have crashed by 62 percent in only two decades and fears have been raised that the distinctive and evocative call of the bird could soon be lost forever.
The local community, representing farmers, gamekeepers and private interests, contacted SNH after participating in Scottish Government’s multi-party ‘Understanding Predation’ project which brought all rural stakeholders together and concluded that urgent and bold action was now necessary if waders were to be saved.
After over a year of bird counts and other discussions, a research license has been drafted which will initially permit the cull of up to 69 ravens in a geographically defined control area to relieve predation pressure on waders such as Curlew, Lapwing and Plover at breeding time.
The license, and any proposed raven management numbers, will be adapted each year depending on regular ground counts of both ravens and wading birds.
SNH has attached conditions to ensure the license will pose no threat to raven populations which have risen by 134 percent in the UK in only two decades.
Over many years local land managers in the area have witnessed flocks of juvenile ravens, sometimes numbering over 30, picking off wader chicks and eggs at breeding time; evidence submitted to the Understanding Predation project.
Campaigners have attacked the plans, launching a petition over the weekend.
Alex Hogg, Chairman of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The reality is no number of keyboard petitions will save the Curlew. Only action will. The practical land managers, who have shared their land with these birds for decades know the time for talk is long over.
“Scottish Government’s Understanding Predation project brought together natural science and local knowledge with the common aim of saving these birds.
“Raptor workers, RSPB, farmers, gamekeepers and everyone with a stake in the countryside agreed in countless workshops that urgent and bold action was now necessary. Adaptive management was identified as one of the tools to save the Curlew and other wading birds whose populations have crashed dramatically. There is no point in reaching those conclusions then failing to act. This licence is a positive action to address a known problem before it is too late.”
He added: “The combined field knowledge of farmers and gamekeepers, gleaned over centuries, is no less valid than other science on this issue.
“Managed moorland and farmland in Strathbraan has been identified as key sites for many wader populations. Even then, losses have been evident, with predation by ravens regularly observed by land managers in the area, with juvenile flocks of 20s and 30s hoovering up chicks and eggs at breeding time.
“SNH deserve credit for working with the community to design a research license to ensure the conservation status of the raven is safeguarded while allowing an assessment of the level of enhanced protection waders could receive in the area by reducing the predation by ravens.” 
A Spokesperson for Strathbraan Community said: “Farmers and keepers in the community have for a number of years identified ravens as a predators of wading bird eggs and chicks, particularly at breeding time. The people here are proud of the number of waders they have locally and their contribution to the numbers nationally. 
“Some of the local land managers were part of the Scottish Government’s Understanding Predation project which brought together conservationists, scientists, government bodies and practical folk to identify what was causing the sharp declines in population of waders across Britain and what might be done to protect those we still have.

“By approaching SNH we have agreed a community licence which will help tell us about ways to protect the waders and conserve ravens. This licence will also allow us to limit the effects of ravens predating on sheep and lambs at this time of the year.”