Young golden eagles disappear in mysterious circumstances

Area becoming 'black hole' for the species, expert says after almost a third of tracked birds disappear

Two golden eagles disappear in 'suspicious circumstances'

Two young golden eagles have disappeared “under suspicious circumstances” within hours of each other on the same Scottish grouse moor, according to wildlife presenter Chris Packham.

The birds were being monitored with satellite tags by Mr Packham and Raptor Persecution UK as part of a study of the movements of young golden eagles in Scotland.

The two eagles, named Adam and Charlie, are said to have vanished from the Auchnafree Estate in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire on 18 April.

They had been wearing satellite tags that inexplicably stopped working and the birds have since been untraceable, Raptor Persecution UK said.

It is illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird, with a few exceptions, in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Mr Packham and Raptor Persecution UK said there was no evidence to suggest the Auchnafree Estate was involved in the disappearances.

The Springwatch presenter said: "We can't prove that harm has come to Adam and Charlie, nor who might have been responsible, but we can look at the circumstances, look at the science, look at the wider evidence and draw plausible conclusions.

"The Scottish government has already acknowledged that illegal raptor persecution is an ongoing problem.

"How many more golden eagles do we have to lose before that same government takes effective action?"

In 2017, research by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) found almost a third of golden eagles tracked by satellite had disappeared in suspicious circumstances.

Ian Thomson, head of investigations for RSPB Scotland, noted that the SNH study showed satellite tags are 98 per cent reliable and only fail as the result of “human interference”.

“This [area] is really becoming a black hole for golden eagles – one that is pulling in young birds never to be seen again – and that’s a big concern for the future populations of eagles,” Mr Thomson said.

He described the disappearance of two birds in the same morning as “astonishing”.

Charlie and Adam hatched at separate nests in the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Adam was named and adopted by Green MSP Andy Wightman, the Scottish Environment Link’s species champion for golden eagles, who said the disappearance was a “personal” loss.

"The cold rage that I felt when I heard of the circumstances of his disappearance has now developed into a determination to discover his fate,” he said.

"This latest outrage should be a wake-up call to the Scottish government that, for all their reviews, inquiries and reforms, rampant criminality remains in place across many of Scotland's driven grouse moors."

Mr Wightman also wrote to Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon this morning, calling on her to publicly condemn raptor persecution and commit to introducing regulation against driven grouse-shooting.

A Scottish government review of grouse moor management practices is expected to be published this summer.

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Adam and Charlie is urged to contact Police Scotland on 101 or the RSPB's confidential raptor crime hotline on 0300 999 0101.

Agencies contributed to this report

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