On a wing and a prayer
Last modified: 06 May 2008
A coalition of conservation, countryside and welfare groups has called for increased efforts to tackle the illegal killing of the UK’s birds of prey.
In all, 26 organisations, including the RSPB, National Trust, The Ramblers’ Association and the RSPCA have put their names to the call, which is contained in a new report on the status of the UK’s birds of prey.
The report, ‘On a Wing and a Prayer,’ is largely a celebration of our birds of prey and of the recovery of many species since the days when they all but vanished because of persecution and poisoning from pesticides like DDT.
As well as legal protection, the birds’ recovery has been helped enormously by the efforts of many landowners and gamekeepers.
Of the country’s 15 bird of prey species, nine have seen their numbers increase in recent years, with populations of five more now stable and just one – the kestrel – declining, possibly due to a reduction in prey because of changes in farming practice.
Their return has proved them a popular part of our natural and cultural heritage, giving pleasure to millions and bringing income through tourism.
Illegal activity remains a very real threat
Yet despite the good news, illegal activity remains a very real threat in some parts of the country with a minority of people still prepared to shoot, trap and poison birds, including golden eagle, hen harrier, goshawk, red kite and peregrine.
Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation, said: 'The turn around in the fortunes of our birds of prey is a cause for national celebration, but we must not allow a return to the bad old days.
'That is why the organisations behind this report are calling for the laws protecting birds of prey to be maintained and properly enforced to stamp out illegal killing.
'We also want to see the countryside used and policed in a way that keeps the environment healthy and diverse enough to support birds of prey. Their presence in our skies is a sign that the wider countryside is in good shape.'
How you can help
Birds of prey continue to be mercilessly killed, despite the fact that it is illegal and has been for decades. Please add your name to our online pledge and say 'the killing must stop'.
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