A wealthy bird-lover has accused gamekeepers and landowners of dooming golden eagles to extinction.
Heiress Sigrid Rausing is trying to encourage the birds to thrive on her Coignafearn estate in the Monadhliath mountains in Inverness-shire.
But she claims many landowners are only interested in bringing in grouse and pheasant shooting parties – and don’t care if the eagles live or die.
She says the landowners and their gamekeepers believe killing raptors is a “victimless crime”. In recent years, there have been hundreds of incidents of protected birds being killed by poisoned bait on Scots hunting estates.
She is also worried by the threat of wind farms, with a £100million 33-turbine project planned for nearby Dunmaglass estate, which is owned by Bahamas-based millionaire Sir Jack Hayward.
Rausing said: “That there are no breeding pairs on Coignafearn is due to persecution. The Monadhliaths are potentially one of the best areas for golden eagles in Britain.
“Our aim is to restore two or three breeding pairs but the risk of eagles being killed when venturing over estate boundaries or killed by turbines is unfortunately very high.”
Rausing, the daughter of Tetra Pak founder Hans Rausing, spoke out soon after photos emerged of a golden eagle carrying off a lamb from a farm on Mull, prompting farmers to claim the birds threaten their livelihood.
Special protection areas in Scotland were designated last year after evidence that farmers were poisoning eagles.
These cover 850,000 acres in the north and west, including Glen Etive, Glen Fyne and the Cairngorms Massif.
Thousands of birds – including hundreds of golden eagles – have been killed by wind turbines across the world.
Campaigners are particularly concerned by proposals for wind farms in Scotland, home to most of Britain’s 431 pairs of golden eagles.
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