Raptor persecution crime fighters win national awards

I attended the UK Wildlife Crime Conference over the weekend, where law enforcers, statutory agencies and NGOs gather to hear the latest views, approaches, successes and challenges of combating wildlife crime in the UK. 

A feature of this annual event is the WWF-sponsored awards given to those whose work deserves national recognition.

This year, I was delighted to see two of those awards being won by teams whose work has focused on tackling the illegal persecution of birds of prey.

First up was Dr Eimear Rooney and Dr Marc Ruddock from the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, who won WWF Wildlife Crime Partner of the Year 2022:

To say their award was richly deserved is a massive understatement. I’ve watched them pour their hearts and souls into raptor conservation in Northern Ireland for many, many years and I can’t think of more deserving recipients.

Without their efforts, providing help, advice and training to an army of raptor monitoring volunteers, as well as doing their own fieldwork, as well as writing grant applications, as well as writing reports, as well as producing educational material, as well as fundraising, as well as hosting conferences, as well as political engagement, as well as engaging in multi-partner initiatives to tackle raptor persecution, often at the expense of spending time with their young families, and still managing to be the most upbeat and fun-loving people to be around, then raptors in Northern Ireland would be in a far more perilous state than they are currently.

I’m thrilled to see their efforts recognised at long last; well done Eimear & Marc!

The second team to win an award for its work tackling raptor persecution was a multi-agency team working on ‘Operation Tantallon’, which is a huge, ongoing investigation into the alleged theft and laundering of wild peregrines in Scotland and northern England.

This investigation team includes Police Scotland, Scottish SPCA, NWCU and SASA, with additional support from members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group. So far three people have been charged with offences, including a serving police officer (see here) and a part-time gamekeeper (here).

Members of Operation Tantallon received the Wildlife Crime Operation of the Year Award 2022 from Megan McCubbin (photo by Guy Shorrock):

The case is ongoing, the defendants are reportedly facing over 100 charges, and a wide range of investigative techniques have been deployed including surveillance, peregrine DNA analysis, searches under warrants, bankers warrants, cyber crime and the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The scale of this effort to bring a prosecution in a raptor persecution case is virtually unheard of in the UK and the ramifications, should the defendants be found guilty, will be huge. Further details of the case will be made available as the case progresses through the courts.

The dedication and determination of those involved in the multi-agency investigation has been outstanding and it’s good to see their hard work recognised. Well done, all!

Multi-agency raid in Lincolnshire after suspected poisoning of three birds of prey

Press release from Lincolnshire Police (6th October 2022):

Bird of prey poisoned, Horncastle

Our Rural Crime Action Team (RCAT) are investigating the suspected poisoning of three birds of prey in the Belchford area of Horncastle. 

On 4 October, the team conducted multi agency searches in the area along with officers from the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), the RSPB and Natural England. During the searches we recovered various items which we believe are linked to the offences under investigation. The offences include the suspected poisoning of three birds, two Buzzards and one Red Kite. 

Inspector Jason Baxter, from Lincolnshire Special Operations Unit, said: “Lincolnshire police will not tolerate the persecution of our wildlife and any offences reported to us will be thoroughly and expeditiously investigated and offenders will be dealt with robustly.”

Investigations are ongoing and we have identified one male suspect who will be interviewed in due course.

Investigating officer, Detective Constable Aaron Flint said: “A number of Birds of Prey appear to have been poisoned in the Horncastle area.

We would appeal for anyone with any information to contact us.”

If any members of the public have information that could assist with the investigation please call 101, email force.control@lincs.police.uk or through crime stoppers. Please remember to quote incident number 22000367672.

ENDS

Well done Lincolnshire Police, Natural England, RSPB and the National Wildlife Crime Unit for yet another excellent example of partnership-working between specialist agencies, and especially for issuing a statement/appeal for information just two days after the raid. I hope some of the other regional police forces are taking note.

This latest multi-agency raid is the latest in a surge of similar investigations in response to raptor persecution crimes over the last couple of years, including a raid in Wiltshire on 23rd September 2020 (here), a raid in Suffolk on 18th January 2021 (here), a raid in January 2021 in Nottinghamshire (here), on 15th March 2021 another raid in Lincolnshire (see here), on 18th March 2021 a raid in Dorset (here), on 26th March 2021 a raid in Devon (see here), on 21st April 2021 a raid in Teesdale (here), on 2nd August 2021 a raid in Shropshire (here), on 12th August 2021 a raid in Herefordshire (here), on 14th September 2021 a raid in Norfolk (here), a raid in Wales in October 2021 (here) a raid in Humberside on 10th December 2021 (here), a raid in North Wales on 8th February 2022 (here), another raid in Suffolk on 22nd April 2022 (here), and another raid in Norfolk on 29th April 2022 (here).

The majority of these cases are ongoing, or have progressed to impending court hearings, but a few have concluded, resulting in the conviction of criminal gamekeepers. These include:

*The Nottinghamshire case (from January 2021) where gamekeeper John Orrey was sentenced in January 2022 for battering to death two buzzards he’d caught inside a trap (here);

*The Suffolk case (also from January 2021) where gamekeeper Shane Leech was convicted of firearms and pesticides offences in November 2021 after the discovery of a poisoned buzzard found close to pheasant-rearing pens in Lakenheath (here);

*The Wales case (from October 2021) where gamekeeper David Matthews was convicted in June 2022 for pesticide offences following the discovery of a poisoned red kite and a shot red kite at a pheasant release pen on the McAlpine Estate in Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, North Wales (see here);

*The Wiltshire case (from September 2020) where gamekeeper Archie Watson was convicted in June 2022 after the discovery of at least 15 dead buzzards and red kites were found dumped in a well on a pheasant shoot on Galteemore Farm in Beckhampton (here);

*The Norfolk case (from September 2021) where gamekeeper Matthew Stroud was convicted in October 2022 for the poisoning of at least five buzzards and a goshawk, amongst other offences, on a pheasant shoot at Weeting, near Thetford (here).

Scottish Land & Estates still refusing to acknowledge extent of raptor persecution on grouse moors

In the last blog post where I wrote about the nine shot birds of prey found wrapped in bags on Millden Estate and just over the estate boundary, I included a quote from Tim Baynes of Scottish Land & Estates, who had written the following in a comment piece for The Field, published in August 2022:

Raptor persecution has been the stick with which grouse moors were beaten for two decades, but the past five years have seen a sea change. In Scotland, recorded crimes have effectively ceased on grouse moors, and raptors of all species have been increasing“.

I said I’d publish his outrageous comment piece in full, so here it is:

I really shouldn’t be surprised that The Field published this nonsense – that particular shooting industry rag has a track record of publishing patently inaccurate comment pieces (e.g. see here).

And I’m definitely not surprised that the author of this latest gibberish is Tim Baynes – his lengthy track record speaks for itself (for a small selection of the masses of examples see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here).

Needless to say, his latest claim that raptor persecution on Scottish grouse moors has “effectively ceased” is demonstrably untrue. You’ve only got to read my last blog post to understand this. If that doesn’t convince you, have a look at the General Licence restrictions currently imposed on grouse moor estates after Police Scotland found ‘clear evidence of raptor persecution’ – Leadhills Estate (here), Lochan Estate (here), Leadhills Estate [again] (here), Invercauld Estate (here), and Moy Estate (here).

And if you still need convincing, have a read of the Scottish Government’s Environment Minister’s statement in 2020 when she announced that there could be no further delay to the introduction of a grouse moor licensing scheme because:

“…despite our many attempts to address this issue, every year birds of prey continue to be killed or disappear in suspicious circumstances on or around grouse moors“.

Perhaps Tim Baynes’ perpetual denial of the bleedin’ obvious explains why he is no longer employed as ‘Director of Moorland’ at Scottish Land & Estates:

Red kite reported shot in Essex – Police appeal for information

Essex Police’s Rural, Wildlife & Heritage Crime Team is appealing for information after a red kite was reportedly found shot in Stapleford Abbots in the Epping Forest.

The kite was found on 3rd September 2022 and is currently undergoing veterinary treatment for what are believed to be shotgun injuries.

[Red kite photo by Javier Alonso Huerta]

No further details about this reported crime have been provided yet.

Anyone with any information that could assist the police investigation please call Essex Police on Tel. 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to provide information anonymously and in confidence. Please quote incident reference number: 42/232180/22.

Moy Estate loses appeal against General Licence restriction imposed for wildlife crime

Moy Estate in the Scottish Highlands has lost its appeal against a General Licence restriction that was imposed on the estate in June 2022 (see here) after Police Scotland provided the licensing authority (NatureScot) with evidence of wildlife crime against birds of prey on the estate, notably the discovery of a poisoned red kite in 2020 and ‘incidents in relation to trapping offences’.

[RPUK map showing Moy Estate boundary, based on information provided by Andy Wightman’s website, Who Owns Scotland]

Regular blog readers will know that the three-year General Licence restriction on Moy Estate took effect on 21st June 2022, prohibiting the use of General Licences 01, 02 and 03 on the estate until 21st June 2025.

However, the estate appealed the restriction (as is permitted by NatureScot’s restriction process) in July and the official ‘restriction notice’ was temporarily removed from NatureScot’s website whilst the appeal was underway.

It’s all a massive farce, of course, because the estate has already had one opportunity to appeal the decision, as part of the formal restriction process. I.E. NatureScot has to provide a written ‘notification’ to an estate when a restriction has been recommended, but before the final decision has been made. The estate then has 14 days to respond (appeal) and explain why the restriction is unwarranted. On receipt of that appeal, Naturescot makes its final decision and if it’s decided to go ahead and impose the General Licence restriction, then the estate is given ANOTHER opportunity to appeal the decision within 14 days.

I don’t have the details of Moy Estate’s appeal(s) because when I asked for similar documents relating to an appeal by Leadhills Estate against its second General Licence restriction last year, NatureScot came under pressure from the solicitor representing the estate who argued that the information was ‘of a sensitive nature and disclosure into the public domain ‘may prejudice the right to any future proceedings’. NatureScot upheld that view and refused to disclose the details of the appeal (see here). Given that the same solicitor is believed to be representing Moy Estate, I haven’t wasted my time by applying for the details, although I’d suggest, given the hilarious appeal that Leadhills Estate made against its first GL restriction (see here) that the real reason for withholding the information of any similar appeals is to avoid the embarrassment of having the laughable appeal letter torn to shreds by public scrutiny.

No matter really, because it’s NatureScot’s response to the appeal that’s really of interest, and in this case, Moy Estate’s appeal has failed and as of last week, the official restriction notice is back on public view on NatureScot’s website:

There’ll be more news from Moy next month when a man appears in court to face charges concerning the alleged shooting of a sparrowhawk.

Edward Mountain MSP disregards sanctions imposed on Moy Estate for wildlife crime

Here’s another senior MSP who decided to disregard the three-year sanction imposed in June this year on Moy Estate after Police Scotland provided evidence to demonstrate wildlife crime had taken place on the estate, notably the discovery of a poisoned red kite and incidents related to alleged trapping offences, although the estate has long been recognised as a raptor persecution hotspot (e.g. see here, scroll down to below the press release).

Sir Edward Mountain, 4th Baronet, the Scottish Conservative’s Deputy Chief Whip, attended Moy Game Fair earlier this month to present prizes on behalf of BASC:

So that’s now two senior MSPs (former Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP was the other one), the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Scottish Land & Estates, and BASC who all seem to have a very strange approach to the notion of ‘zero tolerance’ of raptor persecution.

Some of you might remember Ed Mountain claiming, in 2017, that he’d be “the fiercest critic” of anyone killing raptors. It was a claim he made in a guest article he wrote for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s quarterly rag. Here’s a reminder of what he wrote:

I believe that challenging the ‘spectre’ [of land management reform] is vital, if the very countryside we all value and love is to be maintained. The way to do this is by standing tall and laying out a stall, for all to see the benefits positive management has to offer. The problem is that every time it looks like the right story is being delivered another case of wildlife crime comes to light. If there is any chance of moving forward we must stop these idiots, who believe illegally killing raptors is acceptable.

I therefore would urge all organisations that represent country folk to stand up and let people know all the good work that is being done for conservation. At the same time, they also need to vilify those that break the law.

Over the next 4.5 years I look forward to working with the SGA and I will do all I can to defend the values you and your members believe in. However, I must also say that I will be the fiercest critic of those that jeopardise these values by breaking the law‘.

I asked at the time whether he’d put these strong words into action, but just a few months later he seemed reticent (see here).

This year he had the perfect opportunity to stand by his stated commitment against raptor persecution and boycott the Moy Estate. His actions, and those of his shooting industry mates, speak volumes.

Fergus Ewing MSP & his shooting industry pals disregard sanctions imposed on Moy Estate for wildlife crime

Look at the state of this.

A tweet by Fergus Ewing MSP, former Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, posted yesterday at the Scottish Gamekeeper Association’s stand at the Moy Game Fair. I wonder who he’s referring to when he says ‘We’? Is he speaking on behalf of the Scottish Government?

The Moy Game Fair is hosted by the Moy Estate. That’ll be the disgraced Moy Estate that had a three-year General Licence restriction imposed on it in June this year (see here) after Police Scotland provided evidence to demonstrate wildlife crime had taken place on the estate, notably the discovery of a poisoned red kite and incidents related to alleged trapping offences, although the estate has long been recognised as a raptor persecution hotspot (e.g. see here, scroll down to below the press release).

An estate gamekeeper has recently been charged with the alleged shooting of a sparrowhawk and is due in court in September.

Here is a map we created way back in 2016 to highlight the extent of raptor persecution crimes in Fergus Ewing’s constituency and this shows the concentration of incidents on and close to Moy Estate. There have been further incidents since this map was created, hence the General Licence restriction imposed this year:

Also ignoring the sanction for wildlife crime on Moy Estate is Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the lobby group for game-shooting estates across Scotland, as demonstrated by this tweet yesterday from SLE’s North of Scotland Regional Coordinator, Fiona Van Aardt:

So here’s a senior politician from the SNP Government, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Scottish Land & Estates, all effectively sticking up two fingers to the Government’s policy of sanctioning estates for raptor persecution.

When the policy of imposing General Licence restrictions as a tool for tackling rampant bird of prey persecution was first introduced in 2014, the then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse described the restrictions as being a ‘reputational driver‘. In other words, a sanctioned estate would not enjoy the benefits of being part of the shooting industry because the industry, with its claimed ‘zero tolerance’ approach to raptor persecution, would not wish to be associated with wildlife crime and this (hoped for) ostracization would stimulate a clamp-down on raptor-killing estates.

So much for that idea. It appears that the shooting industry, along with its political supporters, couldn’t give a monkeys. There’s been previous evidence of this on other so-called sanctioned estates (e.g. see here for examples).

Technically speaking, Mr Ewing and his shooting industry pals could argue that Moy Estate is not currently serving a General Licence restriction. How come? Well, because under the rules, if an estate appeals the GL restriction decision, the restriction is temporarily lifted whilst NatureScot considers the estate’s appeal. This is completely bonkers, of course, because a sanctioned estate has already had a chance to appeal the decision, when NatureScot first issues the notification for a restriction. But they’re then given another opportunity to appeal once the restriction has been imposed, and during that appeal process (typically four weeks) NatureScot removes the restriction so the estate can carry on as if the restriction never existed. I’m pretty sure that that’s what’s going on at Moy because the GL restriction decision notice for Moy Estate has been removed from the section of NatureScot’s website where currently-restricted estates are listed (here).

Although if Mr Ewing, the SGA and SLE were to rely upon this technicality, I don’t think that many people would view it as the shooting industry working in the spirit of wishing to stamp out raptor persecution, do you?

Investigative journalists discover more evidence of alleged raptor persecution on Queen’s Sandringham Estate

Investigative journalists from The Guardian newspaper have uncovered more evidence of alleged raptor persecution crimes, not previously reported, at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.

They’ve also uncovered documents which reveal that the police have to seek the Queen’s permission before they are allowed to enter the estate and search for evidence if alleged wildlife crimes are suspected / have been reported.

Long-term blog readers will know that this royal estate has been at the centre of a number of police investigations into alleged raptor persecution, (e.g. see herehereherehere, here), including the most notorious incident back in 2007 where witnesses observed two hen harriers being shot over Dersingham Bog at the same time that Prince Harry, his mate William van Cutsem (whose Hilborough Estate is currently under police investigation for alleged raptor persecution), and an estate gamekeeper were out duck-shooting. No-one was charged, as with all the other reported incidents except one in 2005, where an estate gamekeeper was convicted for pole-trapping a tawny owl next to a pheasant pen (see here, page 3).

However, it now appears that at least two other raptor persecution incidents on the estate have been kept under wraps for years – a poisoned red kite found in 2006 and a dead Marsh harrier (cause of death not given) found on the estate border in 2007 – according to documents published on Friday by The Guardian – the article is well worth a read, here.

Why has it taken 16 years for these raptor persecution incidents to become public knowledge? And given the timings, wouldn’t it have been pertinent for them to have been in the public domain at the time that Prince Harry, his ‘high society’ mate van Cutsem, along with an estate gamekeeper, were all under police investigation into the alleged shooting of two hen harriers in 2007?

It’s no wonder ‘nothing was found’ during the police investigation into those alleged shootings, given that the police weren’t allowed on site until the following morning.

And surprise, surprise, none of the investigating authorities want to comment on any of these latest revelations. Too scared and too obsequious.

There is a follow-up article in today’s Guardian (here), including quotes from me about these very shady processes that amount to what I would call a massive cover-up.

Well done to journalists Sev Carrell, Rob Evans and David Pegg for having the balls to challenge this nonsense.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association plan awards ceremony at disgraced Moy Estate

Remember all those recent headlines from the game shooting industry, declaring a ‘zero tolerance’ stance against raptor persecution?

Well quelle surprise, it seems their interpretation of ‘zero tolerance’ isn’t quite the same as everyone else’s.

Last month Moy Estate, a shooting estate in the Monadhliaths was given a three-year General Licence restriction, imposed by NatureScot on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime against birds, specifically the discovery of a poisoned red kite in 2020 (here).

It was just the latest in a long line of raptor persecution incidents reported on or next to Moy Estate for over a decade, and another court case is due to be heard this autumn.

For an example of the history, here is a map we created way back in 2016 to highlight the extent of raptor persecution crimes in former Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing’s constituency (given his strong support of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association) and this shows the concentration of incidents on and close to Moy Estate:

The General Licence restriction is a bit like putting a school into ‘special measures’ – a status applied by regulators to indicate the school has fallen short of acceptable standards, although the main serious difference here of course is that a General Licence restriction is imposed on the basis of wildlife crimes being committed on the estate, rather than merely a shortfall in standards.

The main idea behind the introduction of General Licence restrictions back in 2014 was that they would act as a “reputational driver” for those sanctioned estates, according to the then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse (see here).

However, there has been no evidence that the game-shooting industry takes any notice whatsoever of such sanctions. For example, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust hosted a guided tour and BBQ on ‘the renowned Corsehope Shoot‘ in June 2017, at the same time that this estate was serving a three year General Licence restriction for wildlife crime; Edradynate Estate bragged about “a belter season“ at the same time it was serving a three-year General Licence restriction for wildlife crime; and this estate was also endorsed by the British Game Alliance, the game shooting industry’s own ‘assurance’ scheme, membership of which is supposed to indicate ‘rigorous and ethical standards’, whilst the estate was under a General Licence restriction for wildlife crime (see here).

So it comes as no surprise to see that the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) is not only intending to have a stand at the forthcoming Highland Field Sport Fair hosted by Moy Estate (now rebranded as the Moy Country Fair, presumably in an attempt to make it more palatable), but the SGA is also planning an awards ceremony at the event to announce the winner of the SGA Young Gamekeeper of the Year Award as well as presenting various Long Service Medals!

You couldn’t make this up!

The Moy game fair has previously attracted the likes of former Cabinet Minister Fergus Ewing who used his attendance to give a rallying speech to the game-shooting sector (here) and Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) also usually has a stand. I can’t remember if Moy Estate is a member of SLE, but it’ll be interesting to see if SLE puts in an appearance this year.

UK donating Red kites to Spain to boost dwindling population

Press release from RSPB (24th June 2022)

Flying kites: the UK’s most successful bird conservation project returns the favour – and chicks – to Spain

The UK’s most successful bird conservation project – for red kites – has come full circle and is now donating kite chicks to a similar project in Spain, the country that provided chicks for our red kite reintroduction project to England almost 35 years ago. 

In 1989, an ambitious project began to restore red kite populations in England and Scotland after they had become extinct around the 1870s, having suffered relentless human persecution by gamekeepers, skin and egg collectors. Now, conservationists are delighted that the project has been so successful that red kite chicks can be supplied in return from England back to Spain to help with important efforts to conserve the species in that country. This amazing turn-around also involves some of the key people involved in the original England and Scotland red kite reintroduction projects.

From the 1700s onwards red kites were killed alongside other birds of prey across the UK by game preservers and farmers, regarded as “vermin”, and 200 years of relentless human persecution followed. The red kite due to its close association with humans was one of the easiest raptor species to exterminate. At the turn of the 20th century, there were just a handful of red kites in the UK, and those birds that remained were confined to remote Welsh valleys.

With legal protection, reduced human persecution, and thanks in particular to the dedicated efforts of enlightened conservationists and farmers, the Welsh population of red kites began to expand slowly. By the 1980s though, they were still confined to the Welsh uplands and their population was considered fragile and vulnerable to extinction. A trial reintroduction of red kites to both England and Scotland was proposed as it was felt highly unlikely that these birds would return naturally and within a reasonable timescale.   

A jigsaw of red kite reintroductions at 9 sites across the UK began from 1989 to help bring the kite back to its former range. The rest is history, and this initiative then developed into one of the greatest UK conservation success stories. From being extinct in England and Scotland, 15-17% of the world’s red kite population is now estimated to be present in the UK.

Most of the birds that were reintroduced to England by Natural England (and its predecessors the Joint Nature Conservation Committee) came from the Navarra area in the north of Spain. About two hundred chicks were donated to the Chilterns and Forestry England woodlands in the East Midlands reintroduction during the 1990s. The RSPB led on the Scottish reintroduction and at a UK level the overall red kite reintroduction programme was overseen jointly with Natural England.  

These reintroduced birds first bred in 1992, just three years after the start of reintroduction, and their population has subsequently expanded rapidly, already recovering much of their former range. Red kites are now thriving again in England and Scotland with the UK population estimated at 6,000 breeding pairs with 4,500-5,000 breeding pairs in England. An amazing conservation success in just 33 years – and still with substantial scope for further population expansion and increase in range. During this time the red kite has become very visible to large parts of the UK population and hugely popular with the public.   

This year, all the chicks going to Spain – working with Accion por el Mundo Salvaje (AMUS) in Extremadura region (www.amus.org.es) – have been collected by Forestry England from nests in the nation’s forests they care for, as well as from the Boughton Estate in Northamptonshire, who have both supported red kite conservation efforts for many years. The project has been advised by RSPB and former Natural England staff involved with the original reintroduction and with huge background experience, One of the Forestry England wildlife rangers collecting the donor birds for the translocation was involved in the original reintroduction collecting chicks from Spain to be released in Northamptonshire woodlands. Local licensed raptor workers, Simon Dudhill and Steve Thornton who have been monitoring red kites for many decades in the East Midlands have provided essential support by locating nests and liaising with local landowners.   

The RSPB’s Duncan Orr-Ewing, who organised the first red kite reintroduction programme in Scotland, and is now advising the latest project, said “the red kite population is confined to Europe. Compared to most of our other native birds of prey it has a relatively small global population. Following concerted conservation action in the UK in recent decades this species’ population has greatly recovered. It is amazing that we are now able to support conservation action for red kites in Spain and to reciprocate their previous generosity in supplying donor stock for our original reintroduction project in England”.       

Tim Mackrill of Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation said “The success of the red kite reintroductions in the UK demonstrates the importance of this conservation technique for species which are naturally slow to expand their range. Restoring the red kite to areas of highly suitable habitat in the UK has enabled the population to recover from the impacts of persecution far more quickly than through natural recolonisation, and now means we are in a position to assist with the conservation of the species in Spain. It shows the clear benefits of a proactive approach to species recovery.”  

Karl Ivens, Forestry England Wildlife Ranger Manager involved in the original and current translocations, explained “I first spotted one of these magnificent birds in May 1994 after the Chilterns reintroduction. It was eating carrion near Wadenhoe Great Wood, ironically where the last nest site was recorded before they became extinct locally in the 1840s. Before I knew it, the following year I was in Spain collecting chicks to bring back to the nation’s forests!

“I’m delighted to see this conservation success during my career, and it is an honour to be collecting chicks again, this time from woodlands I work in, to return to Spain. Red kites are now so easily seen and enjoyed by everyone locally and further afield thanks to a great partnership and Forestry England’s commitment to reintroducing wildlife in the nation’s forests.”

Natural England Chair Tony Juniper said “The reintroduction of red kites to England is the most successful raptor conservation story in Europe. It’s a clear blueprint for the future of species reintroductions, particularly for some of our most endangered birds.”

“Through partnership working, new legally binding government targets for species abundance and the new environmental land management scheme, we increasingly have the means to turn the tide on Nature’s decline in England, bringing fresh promise for other native birds, including our beloved Hen Harrier and Curlew.

“I’m hopeful the red kite chicks bound for Spain will flourish in the same way the chicks that arrived to this country a generation ago did, as we support those helping to rebuild the population and the prospects of this magnificent bird in southern Europe.”

Sophie Common, ZSL (Zoological Society of London) said “It was important to assess the health of the red kites before they travelled back to Spain and the ZSL wildlife veterinarians were pleased to be able to give them the all clear.”

ENDS

There’s not much detail in this press release about the problems facing red kites in some areas of Spain but this BBC news article provides a bit more information, as does this article in The Guardian. Illegal poisoning is still an issue in some areas, just as it still is in parts of the UK, notably in areas managed for gamebird shooting e.g. see here and here.

However, according to Alfonso Godino, one of the reintroduction partners in Spain, tough measures including prison sentences for poisoning ‘have now reduced kite mortality’.

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