Regular blog readers will know that for the last five years, Natural England has been planning a so-called ‘reintroduction’ of hen harriers to southern England as part of DEFRA’s ludicrous Hen Harrier Action Plan (see here for an earlier blog and some earlier key posts).
Ever since it was proposed, I and a number of others have been arguing that it is just another greenwashing conservation sham, aimed to divert attention from the real issue threatening the hen harrier population – the continued illegal killing on driven grouse moors.
[A brilliantly apt cartoon by Gerard Hobley]
Getting detail about the proposed ‘reintroduction’ plans from Natural England has been like pulling teeth; they’ve dodged and ducked questions at every turn. However, in March this year the latest round of FoI requests revealed that Natural England was now planning on getting hold of some injured, un-releasable hen harriers from Europe and using them in a captive breeding programme to produce young birds for release on Salisbury Plain (see here). This is believed to be a direct result of potential donor countries refusing to give healthy hen harriers to the UK because the UK clearly can’t look after the hen harriers it’s already got (at least 56 hen harriers have been confirmed illegally killed or have vanished in suspicious circumstances in the last three years alone, most of them on or close to a driven grouse moor).
One of the main objections to Natural England’s reintroduction proposal continues to be the agency’s apparent denial that raptor persecution is a serious threat to any released birds. This denial is, in my opinion, a clear breach of the IUCN’s reintroduction and conservation translocation guidelines (see here), whereby the cause of the species’ extirpation and any ongoing threats need to be addressed before any birds are released.
Campaign group Wild Justice has also been looking at this issue and yesterday sent a letter to Natural England to challenge the poor quality of the scientific evidence that Natural England has provided in its reintroduction assessment document.
The letter from Wild Justice can be read on their blog (here) and I’d thoroughly recommend you take a look to understand just how rubbish Natural England’s scientific assessment is. So rubbish, in fact, that Natural England has cited papers and books that don’t even cover the [flawed] scientific arguments it’s making!
Wild Justice will be considering whether formal legal action is required against Natural England once NE has had an opportunity to respond to questions posed in Wild Justice’s letter.