Vulture Conservation Foundation raises concerns about Derbyshire bird’s safety

Vulture Conservation Foundation raises concerns about Derbyshire bird’s safety

(c) Indy Greene

Europe’s leading authority on Vulture Conservation has written to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust expressing concerns about the Bearded Vulture which is currently in the region and the risks it faces from lead shot, grouse shooting season and the use of ‘stink pits.’

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is working closely with the Peak District National Park Authority, The National Trust and many others to protect this beautiful bird and ask those who come to enjoy a glimpse of it to do so from a safe and respectable distance. Many people have already been overjoyed to watch it safely as it rests and forages on moorland in the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire.

However, Jose Tavares, the Director of Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), has raised serious concerns about the risks that the Bearded Vulture faces while it remains in the area and forages on carcasses of dead animals.  More in the letter attached.

He says ‘Bearded Vultures in particular, are very prone to suffer from lead poisoning when they ingest dead animals shot with lead ammunition. We have evidence that several Bearded Vultures have died because of lead poisoning – we estimate that that accounts for 13-17% of the species mortality in Europe. If this bird now staying in the Peak District eats a shot hare or fox, or an animal trapped in a snare, it may ingest a toxic amount of lead.

Stink pits are used to control predators such as foxes on grouse moors within the Peak District National Park. Shot animals such as foxes, mountain hares, rabbits and pheasants are accumulated into pits which are heavily snared. The mound of dead animals attracts animals looking for food. They are caught in the snares and then shot by gamekeepers preparing grouse moors for the shooting season.

Jose Tavares continues ‘In particular, these "stink pits" which are used by gamekeepers to attract foxes to snares in the area pose a considerable problem, not only due to potential exposure to lead ammunition but also from becoming trapped in snares. These “stink pits” do pose a risk to the vulture.’

The National Trust, with its tenants, had already stopped the use of stink pits on their land and encourages other land owners to think about their approach and the safety of the vulture.

As moorland shoots gear up to the season starting on the 12th August. Jose Tavares added, ’While this bird may move from the current location anytime, we need to prepare and anticipate. If it stays for another month then it will be foraging over several grouse moors at the time the shooting season starts. While we understand that most hunters are responsible and able to identify the quarry species, it would be a disaster if the bird would be shot. It would be good if grouse shoots and the Peak District National Park could engage and discuss the situation so as to find a win-win solution that does not put in jeopardy the long term survival of this individual.’

Tim Birch, from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said in support of Jose’s comments; ‘The bearded vulture must be protected whilst it stays in the Peak District National Park. It is incredibly rare internationally and we need to do all we can to ensure it remains safe and healthy during its stay with us before it returns to the Alps or the Pyrenees from where we believe it originated. We will continue to work hard to ensure the bird’s safety. ’

The bearded vulture is a very rare vulture in Europe with only an estimated 1000 birds left in the wild. It recently arrived in Derbyshire with bird watchers visiting from all over the country to get a glimpse of this magnificent bird.  It is only the second time that a Bearded Vulture has ever been seen in the UK. Tim Birch has written more in a blog here.

About the Vulture Conservation Foundation

The Vulture Conservation Foundation is committed to conservation and protection of vultures as umbrella species for their natural habitats throughout Europe.

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Letter from the Vulture Conservation Foundation