Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma.
The most important point to make is that we consider the management associated with gamebirds no differently to what we expect of any land-management, such as farming and timber production. RSPB Cymru wants to see a Wales that is equitable, climate-safe, nature-rich and healthy. We need well-connected and ecosystems that help to address the climate and nature crises.
It’s the basis of the Five Steps to Green Recovery that we published recently. In a nutshell, gamebird shooting in Wales must achieve the sustainable management of natural resources (SMNR) that is a legal requirement of Welsh Government.
Gamebird shooting, particularly grouse-shooting in the uplands, has had an historic impact on the wildlife and management of semi-natural areas in Wales, though it influences a smaller part of Wales compared with many areas in England and Scotland. Only a handful of moorlands are now managed for grouse-shooting, including those in the Powys Moorland Partnership that are part-funded by Welsh Government.
Shooting of released, non-native gamebirds, primarily pheasants and red-legged partridges, is more widespread. It has been estimated that pheasants are released for shooting in around 4% of Welsh woodlands, and based on the last Atlas of Wintering Birds, these are most concentrated in Powys, south Denbighshire and Anglesey.
Around 57 million gamebirds are released into the UK countryside every year. Although there are no separate figures available for Wales, we estimate that around 5% of this total is released in Wales. The number of pheasants recorded by the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey has increased by 46% in Wales since 1995.
Thousands of gamebirds, like pheasants, are released in Wales every year (Ben Andrew, rspb-images.com)
The headline numbers are large - perhaps up to three million birds are released into the Welsh countryside each year. But we want to focus on the impacts on nature in Wales, much of which is already struggling as a result of decades of unsustainable land management and the climate crisis. There are gaps in knowledge that need to be filled, but this should not be used as an excuse to address some of the issues that are clear.
What changes do we want to see?
Our evidence reviews highlight concerns about the impact of releasing large numbers of gamebirds into the countryside. For example, releasing gamebirds can lead to higher numbers of other animals, like foxes, which can increase the predation risk to ground-nesting birds such as curlews.
We will highlight these concerns with NRW, Welsh Government and those who manage shoots in Wales. We’ll also push for action to ensure full compliance with existing rules, such as the requirement for compulsory registration of shoots that release more than 50 gamebirds.
Black grouse is a threatened species that depend on upland moorland habitats (Andy Hay, rspb-images.com)
RSPB Cymru has worked with estates and farms with shooting interests to help threatened wildlife, like black grouse in north Wales. But we are very concerned about the impacts of unsustainable gamebird management, including on our nature reserves and protected areas close to gamebird release sites. In the weeks since the RSPB’s new policy was announced, we have received calls of support from both those who shoot and those who don’t.
We hope that shoot owners and syndicates in Wales will hear those calls and show leadership that puts Wales at the forefront of raising standards for sustainable shooting.
* Our policy has been informed by extensive reviews of the evidence, which you can read about here.
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