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'Vicious' gamekeeper convicted of poisoning buzzards

10/01/2013 22:09:56

Buzzards are still being persecuted in some areas.

Carbofuran poison used again
January 2013. A Lincolnshire gamekeeper has been convicted of killing two buzzards and possessing a quantity of an illegally-held poison, which the RSPB says would have been enough to destroy all the birds of prey in Lincolnshire.

71-year-old Robert William Hebblewhite, of Appleby, Scunthorpe, was fined a total £1950 after he was convicted of killing two buzzards and possessing Carbofuran, a banned poison. The buzzards were found dead on land at Blyton, where he works as a gamekeeper. Toxicology tests revealed the birds had died from Carbofuran poisoning after the poison was laced on pheasant carcasses which the buzzards tried to feed on.

‘Vicious' methods
In court Hebblewhite heard the judge describe him as an ‘old-fashioned' gamekeeper who resorted to ‘vicious' methods. The judge regretted the death of the two buzzards but added that it was ‘lucky' that no other creature or human had discovered the poisoned baits first.

Hebblewhite had pleaded guilty to possessing Carbofuran at an earlier hearing on 15 October, 2012.

The RSPB's Mark Thomas, who was at Lincoln Magistrates Court for the conviction, said: "The possession and use of Carbofuran is illegal, and yet birds of prey are still being killed by this poison. This conviction shows this poison is still in circulation in quantities sufficient to kill huge numbers of birds of prey. A few grains of the poison will kill a bird of prey; a jar is enough to kill all the birds of prey in a county. With yet another gamekeeper convicted of poisoning birds of prey, it is time for this illegal and indiscriminate practise to be consigned to the pages of history."

Widespread practice
The RSPB believes it is a widespread practice to place poison on a rabbit or pheasant carcass which is then left for birds of prey to consume. Sometimes even pets are the unfortunate victim, and since 2000 the RSPB has evidence of such poison abuse incidents affecting at least 56 dogs and 22 cats.
Jeff Knott is the RSPB's species policy officer. Commenting on the case, he said: "Reporting last year, the Environmental Audit Committee's review into wildlife crime recognised the significance of these poisons and called on the Government to bring in simple measures to further limit their use."

There are currently 240 pairs of buzzard nesting in Lincolnshire, but the birds only recolonized the county in 1997. Historically, buzzards were absent from much of eastern Britain because of persecution.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

vile gamekeepers

surely there should be a general sweep of these estates by the wildlife crime units on a regular basis. these people simply cant be trusted with OUR wildlife. it is illegal to store these poisons, and that should be enough for convictions. cant rely on weasle words from politicians

Posted by: dee donworth | 16 Jan 2013 12:37:47

Peter Clelford

I wonder if Hebblewhite's fine will be paid by his employer?

This is yet another example which highlights the need to make employees of gamekeepers vicariously liable for their employees actions, with punitive penalties, such as 10 % of total asset value of the estate, specified.

My I remind everyone of the present Government's stance as given by Richard Benyon? The following is copied from raptorpolitics:

"On the 30th June 2011 Richard Benyon provided a reply to a question in the House of Commons he had been asked by Labour MP Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire), this was the question the Minister had been asked:

“Only two weeks ago, a gamekeeper was convicted for illegally killing birds of prey in my constituency. Is it not time to think about introducing a vicarious liability offence to ensure that landowners and estate managers supervise their gamekeepers more closely and more effectively”?

Mr Benyon following the obvious lead he had been given earlier in the year by the former Chief Executive of Natural England Dr. Helen Phillips when she thanked England’s gamekeepers for the wonderful work they carried out looking after our countryside and providing excellent biodiversity upon England’s moorland uplands.

This is the reply the Minister gave: “There are very good laws in place to punish the illegal killing of any animal. If they are not being effectively enforced, they must be and we will take steps to make sure that happens. However, this is a good opportunity to applaud gamekeepers for the wonderful work they do in providing excellent biodiversity across our countryside.”

May I suggest that if you are interested, you contact your MP (google "contact your MP") and urge him/her to apply political pressure to Benyon?

Posted by: P. Clelford | 12 Jan 2013 06:06:29

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