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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

The Good….recently I shared a post with you, remember the ‘justice4ravens’ appeal? Back in April 2018, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) issued a controversial licence permitting gamekeepers to kill young ravens across a large area called Strathbraan, in Highland Perthshire. Much of this land is managed exclusively for grouse shooting and the area has been identified as a wildlife crime hotspot!

Local/national birdwatchers, who have been monitoring birds of prey, including raven in this area for 30 years, have raised funds to initiate a legal challenge against SNH’s decision to authorise the killing of ravens on the basis of ‘just to see what happens’, without any scientific rationale whatsoever.

The good news is the fund exceeded its primary goal of raising £10k in its first day and is closing on its target of £25k with 14 more days to go. It is now possible to appoint a QC to launch a legal challenge in the form of a judicial review of SNH’s decision to issue this licence. Congratulations to everyone involved and the many financial donations that have made this possible.

The Bad….marine pollution, principally plastic, is a huge global problem that has a devastating impact on wildlife at sea and should concern us all. In recent weeks, most of us will have seen upsetting images of turtles, whales, dolphins or seabirds entangled with plastics or discarded fishing gear. Perhaps less well known is the tragic effect that marine litter can have when it washes up on our beaches. The attached images of a stork ‘wearing’ a plastic bag and a magnificent gannet with synthetic rope entangled around its lower mandible and perhaps even its tongue, are evocative and just two examples were a long and agonising death is almost certain.

Marine litter, items we use on a daily basis such as cotton buds and wet wipes, can hang around on our shores for a very long time – usually until it is removed by hand – and a single piece of rubbish thoughtlessly thrown away can claim more than one victim. This is a global problem, so what can we as individuals do? There are many small things that everyone can do locally to help wildlife on their doorstep, now and in the future. First you can reduce your dependence on non-recyclables and consider using alternative materials. If you are out walking on the coastline, any marine waste that you collect, no matter how small, will make a difference and could even safe a life. Why not treat yourself to a day at the seaside and don’t forget to take a bag, enjoy a walk along the beach, fill your bag with waste and feel content having made a positive contribution to a global problem and help save some of our special and most vulnerable wildlife.

And the ugly….three-years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer, Prostate cancer to be exact. This cancer can be a stealth killer, with no obvious clinical tell-tale signs until it may be too late. Prostate cancer has overtaken breast cancer has the single biggest killer, so what can we do? Being the recipient of such news can be devastating, fortunately, I was in the right place at the right time and staff at Raigmore Hospital were wonderful. Two friends who had been diagnosed with having Prostate cancer (one survived, the other died) prompted me to visit the doctors and ask for a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test. The first doctor I saw told me the test was inconclusive and without symptoms I shouldn’t worry. Not convinced I decided to get a second opinion and this time I did received a PSA test, the results of which indicated that I did indeed have Prostate cancer; how wrong was that advice from the first consultation. So, if you are refused a PSA test please seek a second opinion, DO NOT be fobbed off your health is too important! Anyway, to cut a long story short, as a result of my PSA test I was placed on a Prostate cancer surveillance programme, which involved giving a simple blood sample every 3-months to monitor my PSA levels (anything above 4.5 should trigger alarm bells). I was on the monitoring scheme for two-years in which time my PSA had risen to 14.5; time for intervention. Today, following a period of targeted hormone therapy and radiation treatment, I had a consultation with my Urologist today and he said ‘GOOD NEWS’ my PSA level was now undetectable, though I would need further monitoring for the next 3-years, yippee!

So, my greatest wish is that all you males (females do encourage your partners) on reaching your 50th birthday, or if you happen to be older, you should seriously consider making an appointment with your doctor and treat yourselves to a PSA test. This simple blood sample may indicate an early diagnosis of Prostate cancer and one day may just save your life. I cannot stress enough the importance of having this test, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones. Please feel free to share with everyone. I am soon off on an exciting adventure that I will share with you on my return, until then please heed the advice of a Prostate cancer evangelist and take early action today!

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