The disappearance of a rare bird of prey in Wiltshire has prompted a fresh wave of objections from the RSPB and Raptor Persecution UK over the regulator’s planned reintroduction of the raptor to southern England.
As part of Natural England’s six-point hen harrier action plan, launched in 2016, the wildlife regulator wants to reintroduce hen harriers to the 780 km2 Salisbury Plain, most of which lies in Wiltshire.
Hen harriers and other birds of prey are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but since the year 2000, 27 birds have been killed within 25km of the proposed reintroduction site, according to the RSPB.
Most recently the satellite tag for a hen harrier called Vulcan stopped transmitting near Calne in Wiltshire at the end of February.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (c.69)
08 May 2018
However, a presentation delivered by Natural England’s hen harrier expert in October 2018, brought to light by the pressure group Raptor Persecution UK yesterday, shows Natural England still believes the factors behind hen harrier persecutions in the past no longer exist.
Within the presentation, aimed at recruiting hen harrier donors from Europe, Natural England said that a “gradual recovery across Scotland and Wales in recent decades” had been reported.
This is contrary to the findings of a 2016 national hen harrier survey, which showed population declines in each country, according to Raptor Persecution UK.
Gareth Cunningham, RSPB head of nature policy, said: “The recent disappearance of Vulcan raises serious concerns over the safety of any planned hen harrier reintroduction. The RSPB has serious reservations about this approach to hen harrier conservation in England and we believe ending persecution is the key to restoring the UK’s population of these magnificent birds.”
He added: “As such, the RSPB does not support the proposed reintroduction.”
Shooting and poisoning have been the main methods of killing the birds of prey in the south of England, according to the RSPB.
Natural England has been contacted.