Plans to reintroduce hen harriers to a site on Salisbury Plain are under way, following a lengthy battle to save the bird from extinction.
The project is being co-ordinated by Natural England on behalf of DEFRA, and will be supported by the National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO). Numbers had been dropping drastically across British moorlands, but last year, hen harriers had their most successful breeding season in over a decade.
The project aims to reintroduce 20 birds a year from donor sites in Spain and France, although there are concerns about the life expectancy of the birds – seven out of ten birds will die of natural causes in their first year.
Liam Bell, chairman of the NGO, commented: “The NGO is firmly committed to end illegal persecution. It has no place in modern gamekeeping and as a group, and we are working with Natural England to ensure the success of the reintroduction project.”
The project is opposed by the RSPB, on which Liam says: “We are all extremely disappointed not to have the support of the RSPB in this project… It behests us all to give these birds a fighting chance.
“Gamekeepers have an important role to play in helping to deliver the hen harrier action plan, which at this early stage highlights how collaboration between a wide-range of organisations can lead to extremely successful outcomes.”