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How about an in-situ shot?

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Richard2 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Richard2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Dec 2013 at 12:21pm
OK. Several things here.

Accusing someone who is debating seriously with you of arrogance is to demean the seriousness of their concern with the actual arguments. For a genuine debate to take place, the debaters have to respect each other's genuine commitment to the process.

If what NE says isn't worth a thing, why is what anyone says worth a thing? As I asked before, what is an ordinary person to do if not ask the relevant government agency?

Someone driving at 140mph - the comparison is clearly desperate and unfair. In that case the behaviour is quite undeniably illegal and also life-threatening.

How would I describe the way female Sand Lizards bask? I'll submit to your test, though no doubt my expertise will be inadequate. They flatten their bodies as much as possible to bring maximum warmth to the developing eggs. You will say that therefore disturbing them at all, even startling them once, is an impairment of their breeding. But they will be disturbed like that frequently anyway. Is there any evidence from scientists that the daily routine of taking cover and coming out again actually hinders breeding? If it were a matter of constant pestering, perhaps there would be a problem, and if lizard-watching ever became as popular as bird-watching, this might be a problem. Some sort of code would then be desirable, or even an off-season. But we are far from that.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MancD Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Dec 2013 at 12:34pm
If you're carrying out a survey, you would be making repeat visits to a site over a number of occasions, carrying out the same activity and potentially disturbing the same animals time and again. This may be at a time of year which is sensitive (such as breeding) where this disturbance could have a compound effect. ACOs aren't well used by sand lizards so there would not be much point using them instead of transects but I see your point.
 
There is, of course, the counter argument that on a site with high public access, that routine disturbance in this manner is typical and so what happens through members of the public using a reserve unlicensed on one site, would be similar to that which a licensed surveyor would undertake on a site with no access. Hence why it is difficult to advise on theoretical cases since advice needs to be tailored to specific sites. I do agree with Richard though that surveying and casual observing with an interest are not quite the same (although there is clearly overlap).
 
In terms of the licences themselves, most of them actually include methods which include deliberate capture, so it wouldnt be possible to use certain methods without having a licence. In terms of GCNs you could make a case that shining a torch into a pond has little disturbing effect in terms of the legislation I stated earlier. But what if the pond is overgrown and covered in floating vegetation that renders torching ineffective? Getting your waders on and setting bottle traps round the edge would risk a host of offences other than disturbance, as would netting, or capture/mark/recapture. Consultant ecologists need to be able to provide a range of methods under their licences and their clients also use the fact that the ecologists have licences (so have had referees and experience assessed) to be confident that they know what they are doing. This is all entirely appropriate so that all concerned can be confident that surveys are as accurate as they can be and being carried out by responsible people.
 
Prosecution for disturbance only would have to be based upon evidence. So, say that someone didn't like having bats in their loft and so put a light up there on continuously, or left a radio on to deliberately disturb them. Provided there was evidence of the bat roost existing, and that there had been disturbance, and that the roost was no longer there, this could be used to prosecute. It would be unlikely that anyone would report someone for flushing a sand lizard into cover, unless it was a reserve warden and that person was seen to be doing it regularly and there was evidence of an impact in line with the legislation. Proving disturbance is difficult, much more so that proving damage/destruction to breeding sites/resting places which really, are the ones we should all be more concerned about.
 
Gemma, thanks for assuming that I'm not a field herpetologist. My specialism is amphibians rather than reptiles (although by trade I'm a mammologist with a specialism in marsupials and monotremes), and I do a host of surveys each year mainly for Natterjacks and GCN (including annual ones at a SAC), run internal training courses on them, alongside providing advice to staff across the country in addition to developers and ecologists many of whom would tell you I am pretty knowledgable in the field and very helpful. I've also acted as an expert witness in court and have helped the police in a number of prosecution cases over various species. Back in thea early noughties I worked on Cane Toad control projects in Queensland. I've also helped run workshops at the IEEM GCN conference in Brighton, and routinely attend the HWM each year, although not this coming one. There are lots of extremely dedicated and hard working people at Natural England in what is a tough job these days in an ever shrinking organisation with an ever increasing workload. Which is why I come on here in my time off to offer advice to people who want it.
 
 
 
 
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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Dec 2013 at 12:34pm
Yes, quite.

No actually Richard on the whole they mosaic bask.

That is they remain entirely hidden from sight and only rarely are seen openly basking at all.

Now do you feel so confident that your apparently innocuous observations involving getting close to animals and bending down etc might not be an offence? You could very easily for example kill a gravid female sand lizard by simply poorly placing a foot for no other reason that you did not see it or expect it to be there.

Trying to argue a natural consequence of your actions is an accident won't get you very far in my experience in court of law.

In all Richard I just get mild entertainment from these debates, so please do not take any offence. Particularly when we are fortune enough to have contributions directly from NE. 

At the end of the day, there will always be those that will specifically go to sand lizard sites with the intention of visually surveying without a licence. (that is after all exactly what you are talking about doing however it is dressed up).

That is not me though and I don't advise others to do so on this forum. Most actually realize the need for a licence fairly soon. Those that don't well thin end of a wedge etc. But we can hardly cry when a developer digs up a site in future can we.

The point is Richard and with the deepest respect you would not even have known the potential for harm, whereas any licence holder most certainly would.


Edited by GemmaJF - 17 Dec 2013 at 1:04pm
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Richard2 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Richard2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Dec 2013 at 1:01pm
Thank you. That's something I've learned. Actually, now you say it, I recognise this from experience, but I was answering your question quickly.

Careful watching, as I try to define it, would not include trampling thick heather where concealed lizards might be trodden on. We need, I would say, to develop informal codes of dos and don'ts for watching, and this information contributes.

That does not mean that accidents can't happen, though the one you describe would I think be vanishingly rare if we are only talking about cautiously edging a bit closer to a lizard. A hyper-precautionary approach in relation to this particular risk would mean no one was allowed off the paths at all. In duneland reserves such as Studland and Ainsdale the paths are pretty indistinct anyway; there are many small ones. In effect you would be saying that recreational use of the land by walkers, birdwatchers, picnickers, lovers and frisbee-chuckers should also be ruled out. The land would lose its public meaning. Is that too high a price to pay for the occasional accident of the sort you describe? I hope it isn't arrogant to think it might be.

The law, by Duncan's account, suggests that it might be, which is why the disturbance has to be deliberate and a significant impairment. The accident you describe would not be deliberate, and would not have a significant impact on populations. Still, I hate the thought of it - and now I think we are beginning to discuss not whether the watching is legal but within what conditions it can be ethical. There is a lot to be worked-out about that. Do you come from an animal rights viewpoint on that, or is the principle one of maximising ecological diversity? I enjoy the discussions too.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Dec 2013 at 1:16pm
Originally posted by Richard2 Richard2 wrote:

Thank you. That's something I've learned. Actually, now you say it, I recognise this from experience, but I was answering your question quickly.

Careful watching, as I try to define it, would not include trampling thick heather where concealed lizards might be trodden on. We need, I would say, to develop informal codes of dos and don'ts for watching, and this information contributes.

That does not mean that accidents can't happen, though the one you describe would I think be vanishingly rare if we are only talking about cautiously edging a bit closer to a lizard. A hyper-precautionary approach in relation to this particular risk would mean no one was allowed off the paths at all. In duneland reserves such as Studland and Ainsdale the paths are pretty indistinct anyway; there are many small ones. In effect you would be saying that recreational use of the land by walkers, birdwatchers, picnickers, lovers and frisbee-chuckers should also be ruled out. The land would lose its public meaning. Is that too high a price to pay for the occasional accident of the sort you describe? I hope it isn't arrogant to think it might be.

The law, by Duncan's account, suggests that it might be, which is why the disturbance has to be deliberate and a significant impairment. The accident you describe would not be deliberate, and would not have a significant impact on populations. Still, I hate the thought of it - and now I think we are beginning to discuss not whether the watching is legal but within what conditions it can be ethical. There is a lot to be worked-out about that. Do you come from an animal rights viewpoint on that, or is the principle one of maximising ecological diversity? I enjoy the discussions too.

The point is Richard killing is itself an entirely separate offence. I'm sure Duncan will confirm this. I don't think it can be argued as not deliberate if it is a likely or natural consequence of the activity you under take. 

For reference Duncan's account does not discuss the 'law' it discusses the legislation.

If nothing else I think we have all demonstrated a very wide interpretation of what things mean.

What it comes down to is in the unlikely event of one ending up in court it would not be any of our interpretations it would be the magistrate's who might have not the slightest interest in wildlife at all.

I still maintain that anybody regularly spending time around protected species, or purposely setting out to survey (see, visually study etc) those species should consider if they require a licence.

We have plenty of people involved with sand lizard conservation on the forum. I wonder how they feel about the issue, as opposed to arguing about interpretations and meanings of legislation?
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AGILIS View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AGILIS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Dec 2013 at 1:28pm
yes and I am one o them do la know if they are being disturbed by a licensed or non carrying person?KEITH

Edited by AGILIS - 17 Dec 2013 at 4:43pm
   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID
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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Dec 2013 at 1:32pm
I totally agree Keith, they don't have a clue, but the idea of a licence is that it allows one to undertake an activity that would be otherwise illegal. As opposed to it in any way changing the consequence of the activity. Wink One would hope though that the licensing system would at least insure that those that hold them have some basic knowledge of the species involved.




Edited by GemmaJF - 17 Dec 2013 at 1:32pm
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Richard2 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Richard2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Dec 2013 at 1:49pm
"I still maintain that anybody regularly spending time around protected species, or purposely setting out to survey (see, visually study etc) those species should consider if they require a licence."

This idea would seem less alarming if licenses were issued for recreational purposes, and could easily be obtained on the spot from the offices at major nature reserves. The idea of some sort of Highway Code style training to go with the issue of the license seems attractive too, but I doubt that the resources would ever be provided. As long as licenses are issued only for scientific work, then you are arguing that only the experts are entitled to look at these animals deliberately. Surely that is a bit of a problem for your ethical argument, isn't it?


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Dec 2013 at 2:04pm
I have not put across an ethical argument. I have put across my interpretation as a field herpetologist specializing in reptiles on what is required by the law.

But licences can easily be obtained. The majority of forum members here will hold one or more.

I can't see what is alarming about any of it. 

IF you want to spend time close to the animals that are protected under the WCA, it is a good idea to obtain a licence. What is the problem with the whole concept? 

It is actually NE's total inability to prosecute under the current legislation that makes my blood boil, rather than the fact one ought to have a licence before spending a lot of time around protected species.

It is simply untrue that licenses are issued only for scientific work.

I have at no point argued that only experts are entitled to look at the animals deliberately.

You know as well as I do that actual feel study does not consist of animals parading themselves in front of the observer for viewing. It takes hours of walking over the habitat to locate individual animals. Doing so regularly can easily invite potential offences under the WCA, so the wise get a licence.


Edited by GemmaJF - 17 Dec 2013 at 2:07pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Dec 2013 at 2:22pm
PS Richard, it just occurred to me also why this debate rolls on and on.

Many non-licence holders consider that somehow they are being excluded.


Personally I view my licences as protection against potential prosecution. 

Why wouldn't I want them.

Makes a big difference to turn things around sometimes?


Edited by GemmaJF - 17 Dec 2013 at 2:22pm
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