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the UK’s most profitable hen conservation challenge returns the favour – and chicks – to Spain – Mark Avery

Purple Kite grownup in flight, Oxfordshire, February.  Picture: Ben Andrew/RSPB

The UK’s most profitable hen conservation challenge – for crimson kites – has come full circle and is now donating kite chicks to an identical challenge in Spain, the nation that supplied chicks for our crimson kite reintroduction challenge to England virtually 35 years in the past.

In 1989, an bold challenge started to revive crimson kite populations in England and Scotland after that they had change into extinct across the 1870s, having suffered relentless human persecution by gamekeepers, pores and skin and egg collectors. Now, conservationists are delighted that the challenge has been so profitable that crimson kite chicks might be equipped in return from England again to Spain to assist with vital efforts to preserve the species in that nation. This superb turn-around additionally entails among the key folks concerned within the authentic England and Scotland crimson kite reintroduction tasks.

From the 1700s onwards crimson kites had been killed alongside different birds of prey throughout the UK by recreation preservers and farmers, thought to be “vermin”, and 200 years of relentless human persecution adopted. The crimson kite as a consequence of its shut affiliation with people was one of many best raptor species to exterminate. On the flip of the twentieth century, there have been only a handful of crimson kites within the UK, and people birds that remained had been confined to distant Welsh valleys.

With authorized safety, lowered human persecution, and thanks particularly to the devoted efforts of enlightened conservationists and farmers, the Welsh inhabitants of crimson kites started to broaden slowly. By the Nineteen Eighties although, they had been nonetheless confined to the Welsh uplands and their inhabitants was thought of fragile and susceptible to extinction. A trial reintroduction of crimson kites to each England and Scotland was proposed because it was felt extremely unlikely that these birds would return naturally and inside an inexpensive timescale.

A jigsaw of crimson kite reintroductions at 9 websites throughout the UK started from 1989 to assist convey the kite again to its former vary. The remainder is historical past, and this initiative then developed into one of many best UK conservation success tales. From being extinct in England and Scotland, 15-17% of the world’s crimson kite inhabitants is now estimated to be current within the UK.

A lot of the birds that had been reintroduced to England by Pure England (and its predecessors the Joint Nature Conservation Committee) got here from the Navarra space within the north of Spain. About 2 hundred chicks had been donated to the Chilterns and Forestry England woodlands within the East Midlands reintroduction through the Nineteen Nineties. The RSPB led on the Scottish reintroduction and at a UK degree the general crimson kite reintroduction programme was overseen collectively with Pure England.

These reintroduced birds first bred in 1992, simply three years after the beginning of reintroduction, and their inhabitants has subsequently expanded quickly, already recovering a lot of their former vary. Purple kites are actually thriving once more in England and Scotland with the UK inhabitants estimated at 6,000 breeding pairs with 4,500-5,000 breeding pairs in England. A tremendous conservation success in simply 33 years – and nonetheless with substantial scope for additional inhabitants growth and enhance in vary. Throughout this time the crimson kite has change into very seen to massive components of the UK inhabitants and vastly in style with the general public.

This yr, all of the chicks going to Spain – working with Accion por el Mundo Salvaje (AMUS) in Extremadura area ( – have been collected by Forestry England from nests within the nation’s forests they look after, in addition to from the Boughton Property in Northamptonshire, who’ve each supported crimson kite conservation efforts for a few years. The challenge has been suggested by RSPB and former Pure England workers concerned with the unique reintroduction and with enormous background expertise, One of many Forestry England wildlife rangers accumulating the donor birds for the translocation was concerned within the authentic reintroduction accumulating chicks from Spain to be launched in Northamptonshire woodlands. Native licensed raptor staff, Simon Dudhill and Steve Thornton who’ve been monitoring crimson kites for a lot of a long time within the East Midlands have supplied important assist by finding nests and liaising with native landowners.

Purple kite flying over frosty panorama, Oxfordshire, December. Picture: Ben Andrew/RSPB

The RSPB’s Duncan Orr-Ewing, who organised the primary crimson kite reintroduction programme in Scotland, and is now advising the most recent challenge, mentioned “The crimson kite inhabitants is confined to Europe. In comparison with most of our different native birds of prey it has a comparatively small world inhabitants. Following concerted conservation motion within the UK in current a long time this species’ inhabitants has drastically recovered. It’s superb that we are actually capable of assist conservation motion for crimson kites in Spain and to reciprocate their earlier generosity in supplying donor inventory for our authentic reintroduction challenge in England”.

Tim Mackrill of Roy Dennis Wildlife Basis mentioned “The success of the crimson kite reintroductions within the UK demonstrates the significance of this conservation method for species that are naturally sluggish to broaden their vary. Restoring the crimson kite to areas of extremely appropriate habitat within the UK has enabled the inhabitants to get better from the impacts of persecution much more rapidly than by pure recolonisation, and now means we’re ready to help with the conservation of the species in Spain. It reveals the clear advantages of a proactive strategy to species restoration.

Karl Ivens, Forestry England Wildlife Ranger Supervisor concerned within the authentic and present translocations, defined “I first noticed considered one of these magnificent birds in Might 1994 after the Chilterns reintroduction. It was consuming carrion close to Wadenhoe Nice Wooden, mockingly the place the final nest web site was recorded earlier than they turned extinct domestically within the 1840s. Earlier than I knew it, the next yr I used to be in Spain accumulating chicks to convey again to the nation’s forests!

I’m delighted to see this conservation success throughout my profession, and it’s an honour to be accumulating chicks once more, this time from woodlands I work in, to return to Spain. Purple kites are actually so simply seen and loved by everybody domestically and additional afield due to an amazing partnership and Forestry England’s dedication to reintroducing wildlife within the nation’s forests.

Pure England Chair Tony Juniper mentioned “The reintroduction of crimson kites to England is essentially the most profitable raptor conservation story in Europe. It’s a transparent blueprint for the way forward for species reintroductions, notably for a few of our most endangered birds.

By partnership working, new legally binding authorities targets for species abundance and the brand new environmental land administration scheme, we more and more have the means to show the tide on Nature’s decline in England, bringing contemporary promise for different native birds, together with our beloved Hen Harrier and Curlew.

I’m hopeful the crimson kite chicks certain for Spain will flourish in the identical means the chicks that arrived to this nation a era in the past did, as we assist these serving to to rebuild the inhabitants and the prospects of this magnificent hen in southern Europe.

Sophie Frequent, ZSL (Zoological Society of London) mentioned “It was vital to evaluate the well being of the crimson kites earlier than they travelled again to Spain and the ZSL wildlife veterinarians had been happy to have the ability to give them the all clear.”





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