In recent replies given to various questions raised by Fiona O'Donnell (MP) in Westminster relating to bird of prey persecution and the current demise of the Hen Harrier, Richard Benyon ( DEFRA Minister) ) advised that, since 2002, 119 Hen Harriers have been fitted with radio transmitters or satellite tags. Their movements within this period have been the focus of a research study, the results from which will ultimately be examined for the award of a PhD to the worker concerned. A difficult task completed in difficult circumstances.
Given the results allowed Natural England to publish a report in late 2008 containing some very firm conclusions, one questions why , now, we are advised the results are being analysed. I suggest it is only those data collected in subsequent years which are now being examined and that nothing should prevent the availability of details on which a Government report, with conclusions, has already been published. Following the yet to be completed PhD thesis, the Minister's comments bordered on obfuscation when dealing with the possible publication of peer reviewed papers presenting the results. Not an encouraging response when associated with a process aimed at contributing to " the body of knowledge". I would gently remind the Minister that one of the elements we treasure, and can be proud of in this democracy, is the open availability of information , at least in theory! Based, admittedly on information from informal sources, it appears likely that, of the 199 harriers to which devices were attached, only one is still providing results. One can only speculate on the circumstances contributing to the loss of the other data sources and their hosts at various intervals in recent years.
Of pertinent interest on Mark Avery's Blog ( Standing up for Nature link here ) is a submission from a Mr Philip Curtis ) who worked on the Hen Harrier Recovery Project between 2002-08. He resigned in disgust at the lack of commitment to the project, the dilution of results and the avoidance of damning details in the reports and a deliberate decision not to include a map showing the locations where persecution was strongly suspected or proven. To those responsible I would simply remind them that Natural England is the Government's advisor on wildlife matters, supposedly impartial and not funded by the taxpayer to commence presenting results, or to have its report results presented in a politically acceptable fashion. As can be seen, the truth will out!
In the light of the imminent likelihood of the Hen Harrier becoming extinct as a breeding species in England, is it not now a priority for this data to be released and is it not a matter upon which the Minister should intervene? Such would identify the precise areas where persecution has been rife and confirm the conclusions presented in the Natural England report and publicised in December, 2008.
All in all, a catalogue of conflicting outpourings that are a shameful disgrace and do little, until rectified, of the claim of the current Coalition as being the Greenest Government Ever!