Well this is all a bit odd.
The Wild Ken Hill Estate has pulled out of hosting a white-tailed eagle restoration project in west Norfolk.
Earlier this year, the progressive rewilding estate was hailed by conservationists as news emerged that the estate had joined forces with the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation to release up to 60 white-tailed eagles, donated by Poland, over a ten year period to help restore the species to its former range in East Anglia.
Public support was in place (91% of respondents to a consultation were in favour of bringing the eagles back), even the neighbouring Sandringham Estate was reported to be ‘supportive’ (here), Natural England had agreed to licence the project (here) and a crowdfunder had raised over £9,000 to help pay for logistics (here).
Everything looked to be going ahead for the first eagles to be released in 2022 until a recent announcement on Wild Ken Hill Estate’s blog saying the project was ‘on hold’:
Eagle project on hold
We have reluctantly decided that we will not reintroduce White-tailed Eagles at Wild Ken Hill in 2022 as planned.
We continue to believe that the restoration of White-tailed Eagles to Eastern England is an important and inevitable conservation goal, and also that the original plans for a release beginning in 2022 could have been delivered very successfully in partnership with the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation.
We have, however, taken the difficult decision to focus on other aspects of our nationally-significant nature and regenerative farming project. In particular, we feel it is worth putting our full weight behind the pioneering innovations we are making as part of our regenerative farming approach. The greater biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and improved profitability demonstrated at Wild Ken Hill with this approach over the last 3 years have the potential to have a huge impact across the UK if adopted by others; we feel it is therefore imperative to focus on these. In addition to regenerative farming, Wild Ken Hill supports beavers and is a release site for Natural England’s curlew headstarting project.
We are sure that the restoration of the White-tailed Eagle to England will continue successfully on the Isle of Wight, and we hope that dispersing juvenile eagles continue to visit Wild Ken Hill and the Norfolk Coast, attracted by the area’s suitable habitat.
We wanted to specifically and publicly offer our apologies to the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, who have been exceptional project partners to date and a pleasure to work with.
We also would like to thank and apologise to those that supported this project when participating in the consultation, particularly the 91% of the general public that offered their support and the many landmanagers and conservation organisations that did the same.
We will shortly be in touch with those that supported the Crowdfunding campaign to offer a full refund.
That’s all a bit odd, isn’t it?
Was that enough to make Wild Ken Hill Estate buckle? It’s pretty disappointing, if it was, especially as real and potential concerns were carefully considered in the project’s comprehensive feasibility report, published in April 2021:
What has been said, and/or what threats have been made since then, to force Wild Ken Hill Estate to reconsider its involvement?
The most ridiculous thing in all of this is that the eagles are already making their way back to Norfolk, including visiting the Wild Ken Hill Estate, as they disperse from the release project on the Isle of Wight.
How long until the first poisoning incident, do you reckon?