Broadcaster Chris Packham joins RSPB and others to call for action at BAWC event

Chris Packham will be among the speakers when RSPB Rainham Marshes nature reserve hosts a Hen Harrier Day on 6 August, organised by Birders Against Wildlife Crime.

BAWC launched Hen Harrier Day in 2014 to raise awareness of the serious persecution suffered by these spectacular birds of prey. Despite full legal protection since the early 1950s, hen harriers remain absent from vast swathes of the UK. They are now almost extinct as a breeding species in England, primarily because of illegal persecution on intensively managed areas of upland grouse moor.

Hen Harrier Day has quickly become an annual fixture, growing from a single rally in the Peak District just two years ago to 12 events this year across the UK, including several events in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Four of the events will take place at RSPB reserves.

“It’s not extremist, it’s not political. It’s purely about the continued illegal persecution of raptors.”

Hen Harrier events are taking place across the country, organised by BAWC with support from the RSPB, broadcaster and conservationist Chris Packham and conservation activist Mark Avery. Chris and Mark will be speaking at the Rainham event along with the RSPB’s Chief Executive Mike Clarke and BAWC’s Charlie Moores.

With only three known pairs of hen harriers still breeding successfully in England, despite there being enough habitat for more than 320, this is a species on the brink. The number of wintering hen harriers in the Thames Estuary has hugely declined, and their regular winter roosts at Rainham are sadly now a thing of the past.

Chris Packham says: “It’s not extremist, it’s not political. It’s purely about the continued illegal persecution of raptors. We want it to stop, now, so please come and join us at Hen Harrier Day and help spread awareness of their ongoing plight. Is it too much to politely ask for the law to be upheld and implemented?”

Mike Clarke, the RSPB’s Chief Executive says: “We are committed to seeing this amazing bird of prey restored to its rightful place across the uplands of the UK. Tackling illegal killing of protected wildlife is an issue that is absolutely core to what the RSPB is for. We recently withdrew support from Defra’s Hen Harrier action plan as that approach is failing to deliver. Time is not on the hen harrier’s side and these Hen Harrier Day events send a strong message that we want our hen harriers back!”

Charlie Moores says: “This event will mark the start of a whole weekend of hen harrier rallies up and down the UK. The fact that our initial Hen Harrier Day has grown so quickly into a dozen events, all organised by passionate volunteers determined to raise the profile of this issue, demonstrates the strength of feeling people have about this wildlife crime. Our native wildlife should be allowed to thrive so we can all enjoy it for generations to come. We’re delighted the RSPB is hosting this Hen Harrier Day and I can’t wait to meet so many like-minded people there.”

Mark Avery says: “Hen harriers are threatened by wildlife criminals solely because they eat the red grouse that people want to shoot for fun. Please show your support for threatened wildlife by coming to Rainham Marshes on 6 August and making this the biggest Hen Harrier rally ever.”

The free event at RSPB Rainham Marshes starts at 11am on Saturday 6 August. Visitors are urged to travel by public transport as parking is limited (the reserve and car park will open at 8am). C2C has enhanced its train service on the day between London Fenchurch Street and Grays in Essex to accommodate extra passengers, with more time for people to alight and board at Purfleet station. It is an easy, signposted 10-minute walk to the venue from Purfleet station.