BASC disputes lead claim for raptor losses

A recent report links lead shot and lead ammunition to the deaths of red kites in the UK, and calls for the uptake of non-lead alternatives. But BASC says the evidence has been exaggerated to support this claim.

A study in the European Journal of Wildlife Research has published details of post mortems and toxicology analysis of 162 red kites found dead between 1989 and 2007. Lead poisoning accounted for 3.7 per cent of mortality – second lowest behind metabolic bone disease.

Physical trauma, including collisions with power lines, was a far more significant factor, accounting for more than a quarter of the deaths. Infectious disease was also a notable cause of death at 17.9 per cent. The report also highlights that 11.7 per cent of the red kites died as a result of rodenticide poisoning.

Dr Matt Ellis, BASC’s scientific advisor, said: “While red kite populations are declining across southern Europe, the population in the UK is growing faster than in any other country and has risen by 1026 per cent since 1994.

“This is no reason to be complacent and we support evidence-based approaches to tackling the greatest risks to these birds.

“Any bird dying from lead poisoning is an avoidable death and we are working to produce and promote best practice guidance on the ways to mitigate these risks. “However, lead poisoning was implicated in only 3.7 per cent of the deaths and it would be a scandalous waste of precious conservation resources to focus on the second lowest cause of death reported in this species.”

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