Reintroducing red kites despite hunter opposition
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2007:
DUBLIN, ULSTER– The Golden Eagle Trust, Welsh Kite Trust,
and Irish National Parks & Wildlife Service in July 2007 released 15
pairs of red kites in the Wicklow mountains, in an attempt to
rebuild the long extinct native kite population–but someone shot one
of the kites just six weeks later, during National Heritage Week.
The shooting followed a series of killings of birds of prey
in County Down, Northern Ireland, including a peregrine falcon who
was hatched in County Antrim in early 2006 and found dead near
Sprucefield in October, and a buzzard who was found poisoned in the
Drumbanagher area, near Newry.
“There was a case of alleged persecution of peregrines in the
Mourne Mountains earlier,” recalled Royal Society for the Protection
of Birds conservation officer Claire Ferry.
Stephen Philpot of the Ulster SPCA noted “an increasing
number of such attacks on protected species.”
Unlike in the U.S., where opposition to predator protection
and restoration from hunters and ranchers has been vocal and
politically organized, overt opposition in Britain and Ireland has
been almost nil. Yet while “Shoot, shovel, and shut up” is a
political rallying cry in the U.S. west, in Britain and Ireland the
practice has long been observed.
Red kites were exterminated in southern England by 1859, and
in Ireland, northern England, and Scotland by 1880. About 40 pair
survived in Wales. “Volunteers guarded the nests from
egg-collectors,” recalls Independent environment editor Michael
McCarthy. “The first Welsh kite protection program started in 1903,
and is the longest continuous conservation project in the world.”
Ninety-three Welsh kites and others imported from Sweden and
Spain were released in England and Scotland between 1989 and 2004.
There are now nearly 1,000 breeding pairs in Britain, believed to be
the only nation in Europe in which the kite population is growing.
Only one pair is known to have nested in Ireland.