Peak District project to boost birds of prey shut down due to illegal activity
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The initiative ran for more than a decade with the goal of returning the region’s raptors to levels last seen during the 1990s and re-establish the hen harrier as a regularly breeding species.
But many of the key species have not increased at the rates initially hoped for and some saw no improvement at all.
The RSPB stepped down as a member in 2018 and others involved in the project recently said they could no longer support it.
Incidents of shooting, poisoning, trapping, nest destruction or the disappearance of satellite-tracked birds have prevented progress in every year of the scheme, the National Park Authority said.
The authority said meaningful progress will not be possible until these illegal activities are tackled.
Phil Mulligan, chief executive of the authority, said: “It is with regret that we are closing the initiative after more than a decade of endeavours to safeguard our charismatic birds of prey that have a rightful place here in the national park.
“Featuring at the very top of local ecosystems, these species like the hen harrier, peregrine and goshawk should be a flagship for landscapes and habitats at the heart of nature’s recovery.
“The fact that the work of the initiative has failed to reflect those target populations of some 30 years ago remains a cause for real concern, and it is without question that illegal persecution targeted towards some of these species is one factor behind this stuttering progress.
“I would like to extend my thanks to those who have put their time, energies and passion into the painstaking study, sharing of information and analysis of our raptor populations during the initiative’s existence, but we must now look at alternative ways to ensure our birds of prey have a future in the Peak District – free from the risk of illegal actions.”
The authority confirmed it will continue working with stakeholders to support the birds in the Peak District via other projects.