More on proposed reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales

Last month we blogged about conflicting approaches to the proposed reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales (see here).

One group (Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project, ERW) being led by researchers at Cardiff University is part-way through conducting a careful scoping exercise to properly consider all the factors that need to be addressed before permission for a reintroduction would be granted, e.g. biological and environmental considerations, social and political considerations, and comprehensive risk assessments and an exit strategy.

The other group (Wilder Britain) is a newly registered Community Interest Company being led by Dr Paul O’Donoghue of Wildcat Haven and Lynx Trust UK ‘fame’. A press release from Wilder Britain stated that an application to release golden eagles would be submitted this summer, which appears to us to be premature.

Private Eye picked up on this news and have published a piece in their latest edition:

Meanwhile, Dr O’Donoghue wrote to RPUK to complain about last month’s blog. Unfortunately Dr O’Donoghue’s email went straight to the spam folder so it’s only just been discovered but in the interests of transparency it’s published here so that everyone has the opportunity to view his extensive ornithological expertise:

Just a couple of points from us.

When we wrote, “We’re not aware of Dr O’Donoghue’s experience or expertise in ornithology or in the field of raptor research and conservation” in our earlier blog, we did not ‘seek to lead the reader to believe that I [Paul O’Donoghue] have no relevant ornithological experience‘. If that’s what we had wanted to say, that is what we would have said! We said we were not aware of Dr O’Donoghue’s experience or expertise in ornithology or in the field of raptor research and conservation, simply because we weren’t aware of it. His name is not a familiar one in the scientific journals we read.

Having now become aware of Dr O’Donoghue’s ornithological experience and expertise, based on the information he provided, we maintain our support for the Cardiff University ERW Project’s robust approach to assessing the feasibility of a reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales.

Meanwhile, Dr O’Donoghue has been the subject of more media attention, this time at a public meeting to discuss his proposal to reintroduce the Lynx to various sites in Scotland. It didn’t end well, according to the Scottish Farmer (see here).

21 thoughts on “More on proposed reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales”

  1. My goodness. Conservation and reintroductions of large predators doesn’t just require expertise of handling wild animals and their ecology, but it requires very good people skills and a polite, professional manner in the face of criticism. Something this fellow appears to lack entirely. Bluster and fluster at people who should be your allies, let alone the people you have to convince of your objectives, is NOT the way to do things – and worse, will drag down more genuine and well-planned schemes by turning the landowners completely against any talk of reintroductions.

  2. I suppose the best that could be achieved from this attempt by Wilder Britain to introduce Eagles to Wales is that more people hear about the other CICs which the promoter is involved with.
    Personally I don’t find it surprising that Countryfile decided to feature a long interview with Dr Paul O’Donoghue of Wildcat Haven and Lynx Trust UK ‘fame’. Whilst I am sure that they do research the items which they decide to air, it may not always be based upon the correct criteria. It may well be that the publicity generated by the airing of the piece about Wilder Britain gains more funds for this and the other CICs. Well done, BBC, if that was the intent. The response of the farmers and the attitude of the organisers to the event in Inveraray does not bode well for serious well intended cooperation between stakeholders in any carefully considered introduction programme.

    1. Having seen the Countryfile piece myself I felt that the BBC presenter was a little bit tongue in cheek. Did anyone else get this impression?

      And regarding Paul O’Donoghue xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

  3. Poor creatures….humans should seek to signal their virtue elsewhere and not even consider this stupid stupid idea….in knowledge of the savages out there who think nothing of and need little excuse to shoot anything they deem a threat to their livlihood in some way.

  4. terrible way to conduct a public meeting at which you need to explain and help people come to the right decision. Bad for him bad for reintroductions in general this may come back to bite us somewhere!
    As to lynx and sheep what farmers need to know is that many Norwegian sheep are grazed in open woodland a place lynx feel safe, they feel relatively unsafe out in the open and rarely hunt there. Then again the farmers will be wound up by various organisations opposed on principle and will not be listening.

  5. I don’t understand why RPUK do not treat the Cardiff eagle project with the same distain as the southern England harrier proposals. Surely the two proposals share many similarities. They both involve a species that is held back by continued illegal persecution in the uplands. If you believe that the focus for harriers should be exclusively on tackling illegal persecution (rather than a reintroduction) then why does the same not apply to eagles? In similar vein you have suggested that illegal persecution anywhere close to the harrier release site is grounds for not proceeding with releases. Yet Wales is peppered with illegal persecution incidents involving Red Kites, Buzzards, Peregrines, Ravens, Hen Harriers and other species. Young eagles are known to wander far and wide: wont some wander to areas where persecution against eagles is still taking place? A few days ago you wrote a scathing piece about those involved with the southern Harrier project leading others to question the financial and ethical motives of the conservationists involved. Why are you so apparently so much more relaxed about eagles?

    1. Ian, try reading it a bit more carefully, please.

      Our support is for the ERW Project’s approach to assessing the FEASIBILITY of a reintroduction, which will undoubtedly include an assessment on the extent of illegal persecution in Wales.

      1. Likewise! You simply ignore my questions which do not require the completion of a feasibility study to address. Or are you suggesting that the feasibility study may come up with a solution to illegal persecution in existing areas? Or a methodology to stop young eagles wandering widely? You were hostile to the southern harrier project long before the plans for it were set out formally, as it clear from the history of articles on your blog. Your attitude towards eagles is very different. All I’m asking is why?

        1. Really, Ian? You don’t understand the hostility towards NE’s HH reintro to southern England?

          It’s been discussed, at length, on this blog and elsewhere.

          You know exactly why, you just disagree with the reasoning, which is fine. But please don’t waste our time asking us to go over it again and again and again. We’re a bit busy.

          1. Yes, I see that, too busy to deal with these very reasonable and relevant questions from a fellow conservationist on your own blog. I’m sorry for troubling you.

    2. To be fair to RPUK, they have not indicated a final preference for the reintroduction to Golden Eagles to Wales, merely a preference for the ERW approach to a reintroduction to that of ‘Wilder Britain’. I would not be surprised, should ERW finally propose a reintroduction, that they would oppose this in the same way they have opposed The Southern Scotland introduction and the Hen Harrier Introduction to cereal fields in Southern England, and for the reasons you have indicated that they might. No reason – yet – for anyone to get up on a high horse, or even to regurgitate old arguments.

    1. Ian I think you may be being deliberately unseeing on this one. You know I am oppose to the other scheme to re introduce Golden Eagles to Snowdonia, although not for reasons of persecution. The Cardiff scheme is still in the feasibility stage so we don’t know what it will say. Yes I am not enamoured by the south Scotland eagle re-introduction because of the high risk of persecution, although I would love eagles in a place where they could colonise Northern England but that’s a persecution hotspot too away from the Lakes that have poor prey density and diversity.
      My objection to the southern Reintroduction of harriers is one of resources and that it is a deflection tactic, one might even say appeasement of the grouse lobby. Thus to me and many others it should be very low priority compared to solving the persecution problem on grouse moors, which NE and more importantly government seem very reluctant to try to do. Given harriers reproductive rate if the problems were solved in the north recolonization of upland habitats would be relatively rapid offering a real chance of colonisation of other habitats in the south, one can hardly claim the same about Eagles.

      1. Hi Paul, I think that’s fair enough. You are citing political concerns as much as issues relating to the IUCN guidelines and I understand that point of view. But I don’t think the inconsistencies in the way that the NE project is portrayed are helpful. To approach this from a slightly different angle, RSPB have briefed against the NE harrier project, specifically citing persecution in the proposed release area as one of their grounds for concern. And yet they are part of a partnership that has already released Golden Eagles in southern Scotland where there is a known history of persecution, including of eagles. Frankly I’d be amazed if, in the coming years, some of the eagles released as part of that project were not killed by illegal persecution – no doubt we’ll find out in time. That’s double standards isn’t it, or am I missing something?

        1. I don’t know if its double standards but it certainly could be. It rather depends on their view of the potential success of the scheme and how that fits into their world view. I think RSPB are opposed to the Harrier scheme in the same way that I am but are using the risk of persecution as an additional objection, they probably think that is perfectly valid because it concerns a scheme they don’t want or like for other reasons some of which of course are political. They may take the view of the Eagle scheme persecution risk as acceptable because in other ways including political they approve of the scheme. Of course I don’t speak for RSPB but that to me seems the most likely explanation. Critics may well see that as a double standard but really it is just giving different values to the various pros and cons of any scheme, its what we all, including you, do with these things they are rarely simple black and white solutions to a simple problem. I always supported the Kite and WTE schemes and still think they have been a huge success both for kites and as a flagship reintroduction showing how well if done correctly it works, I think the same of that for Cirl Bunting. I think that WTE would have been better into East Anglia or the west coast rather than the Isle of Wight but I still think the Isle scheme will work. I have never felt that the Great Bustard would be viable, still don’t and for me the White Stork is a non-starter. Others of course think otherwise because they weigh up the various options and facts involved differently.
          I have always wanted Harriers to achieve their real potential in our uplands and reading the old accounts before they were originally removed they were rather like Kites in being as common as Kestrels in the right places. I once had a conversation with a keeper I really didn’t like or remotely trust about harriers near a nest on his beat he had been instructed to leave alone. He said in the end people like me had to make a decision harriers or keepers and grouse shooting. I said for me that was easy and it was harriers every time, but of course he saw it very differently.

  6. It was myself who Paul O’Donoghue and Emily O’Donoghue who threw out of the official consultation open day at Inveraray.

    [Ed: Thanks, Paul, but you’ll understand why the rest of your comment cannot be published here]

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