International collaboration plans to help bring turtle doves back from the brink.
The effect on turtle doves
Once a common sight across much of Europe, today the turtle dove is close to extinction. But, for the first time, conservationists and hunters are working together to help save the species.
"When conservationists and hunters walk into a room hand in hand and say 'we have a problem here' that's when governments start to listen." So says Carles Carboneras, RSPB International Migrants Programme Manager. And that is exactly what happened.
Where there were once 120,000 pairs in the UK there are now just 5,000 – over the last 45 years, the UK has lost 96% of its turtle doves.
Since 2015, the RSPB has been tasked by EU LIFE to produce an international Species Action Plan (SAP) for turtle doves that would be rolled out across the EU. SAPs provide information about the status of a species, and list key actions that are required for conservation.
It is largely thought to be habitat destruction, rather than hunting, that has caused declines. "We're not looking to eliminate hunting," explains Carles. "Hunters actually manage the land to favour the species, which may partly explain why declines in France and Spain, where most hunting takes place, are not as bad as in the UK. Instead, we try to learn from hunters how to produce more turtle doves by preserving vital trees and hedgerows and supplying food."
The work on the SAP will continue for another year, but the focus on turtle doves remains. "We are looking to recover the species to its previous numbers. This is a long process," says Carles. "The next step for us will be to influence management of agricultural landscapes, both in the UK and the EU, to bring about the recovery of turtle doves."
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