A consortium led by Natural England is currently looking at the feasibility of re-introducing hen harrier to southern England. The species is red listed, and has declined markedly over the past few decades with it's continuing rarity due to ongoing illegal persecution on and around intensively managed grouse moors in northern England.
The current NE feasibility project aims to assess the opportunity of re-establishing a viable population away from the moors, and thus improve the bird’s prospects. Areas being looked at include Dartmoor, Exmoor and Wessex. The RSPB has serious reservations about this approach to hen harrier conservation in England, and therefore is NOT supporting the project. Firstly, the RSPB only advocates reintroduction in situations where natural re-colonisation is not possible through other measures. At present, we believe that this could be achieved if persecution in the uplands was stopped. Secondly, the RSPB is concerned that if hen harriers were to be re-introduced to southern England, birds that disperse from their natal areas would be threatened by ongoing illegal persecution in the uplands. Therefore, again, persecution would need to stop entirely before any re-introduction would be viable. However, the re-introduction project is still at the feasibility stage, and we have yet to see detailed proposals. Although we have serious doubts, to be fair, if the project can address these concerns, which we believe it would need to do in order to comply with IUCN re-introduction guidelines, then the RSPB would wish it every success. Currently we don’t see how it can do this.
If you'd like to show your support for birds of prey, and help raise awareness of their ongoing illegal persecution, join us at Hen Harrier Day South at RSPB Arne on Sunday 6 August. Speeches by Chris Packham and RSPB Director England Chris Corrigan plus author Gill Lewis reading from her new children's book Sky Dancer.
Thanks for setting out the RSPB's very common-sense position on this contentious proposal so clearly.
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