An End to Illegal Prey on Lords of the Skies; DEWAR PLEDGES NEW LAW TO STOP SLAUGHTER OF ENDANGERED HAWKS

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Byline: ANNA STEVEN

THE Government yesterday pledged to introduce tough new laws to end the slaughter of endangered birds of prey.

Secretary of State Donald Dewar vowed to take 'all possible steps' to eliminate crimes against birds such as peregrine falcons, golden eagles and hen harriers, as a major report pointed the finger of blame at gamekeepers and landowners.

It revealed for the first time the huge scale of persecution against hawks, including the poisoning, shooting and trapping of fully-grown birds, the killing of chicks and the destruction of nests and eggs.

On some Scottish estates, three-quarters of young birds were lost because of human interference.

Unveiling the report, compiled by Scottish raptor study groups, at a wildlife and countryside fair held near Kinross, Perthshire, Mr Dewar described the persecution as a national disgrace.

He said: 'Although we are all aware of individual incidents of wildlife crime in Scotland - such as theft of eggs and shooting or poisoning of birds of prey - it is less well known that illegal persecution is the reason why, in some areas, birds are scarce or nonexistent.

'The Government, and no doubt the Scottish parliament, will take all possible steps to eliminate persecution.' In the most conclusive evidence yet against owners and keepers, the report showed that peregrines on keepered ground in Central Scotland produced 38 per cent fewer young than those on land where no gamekeeper was present.

In Tayside, the average production of young golden eagles was about 43 per cent fewer than would have been the case without persecution.

David Minns, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland, blamed rogue landowners and keepers for the slaughter. …