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RSPB's £16m plan to eradicate stoats in Orkney branded 'a flop' and 'ineffective'

For the last 13 years stoats have been decimating ground nesting birds such as curlews and Artic terns, across the Orkney Islands.

They are thought to have arrived on a lorry carrying hay for livestock in 2010 and since then their numbers have grown out of control. They can swim for two miles and one female’s litter can be between six and 12 animals.

In 2019 an initial £8m scheme was launched to eradicate the stoats from the island. However that scheme has today been branded 'ineffective' and 'a flop' from insiders working on the project.

Speaking to The Times the whistleblower said: "The killing of the stoats was not happening at high enough rates to make enough of a difference to the population. Rather than plough another £8 million into the scheme, the whistleblower said the plug should be pulled. If you aren’t going to do an eradication properly, then there is no point doing it at all,”.

It is damning condemnation from the insider which confirms what many suspected from the start that the project is a huge waste of public money and entirely ineffective.

Former chairman of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust Ian Coghill spoke to senior Royal Society for the Protection of Birds staff at the time of the project's launch. In an interview with FieldSports TV coghill explained. “I suggested that it would be a good idea to ask the SGA – Scottish Gamekeepers Association – who is the best gamekeeper out of a job? approach him or her and say we’ll give you a cottage on Orkney, we’ll give you a vehicle, all the kit you could possibly want and a great big bonus when you catch the last stoat. And they said, ‘No, you don’t understand, we’re going to live-trap them and put them back on the mainland’. So I said: it seems odd that you’ve got a big problem and you’re going to use the least efficient method to deal with it. But they own a big chunk of Orkney so they can deal with it and I left them to it.”

In an interview with Fieldsports Britain in 2019, Orkney Native Wildlife Project head Sarah Sankey agreed with Coghill. “It would have been easier if we’d got rid of the stoats when they first arrived,” she said. “We could have done a small incursion response and got rid of the stoats but we had neither the skill nor the understanding back then which we have developed.”

Whether the project continues or is now stopped remains to be seen, however either way this is just the latest embarrassment for the RSPB and yet another reminder of their incompetence and inability to protect endangered species.


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