Wednesday, 10 September 2014

We have to be brave and realistic when making decisions

Below is a letter written by Dr Andrew Hoodless of the GWCT in response to a recent piece in The Times on hunting. The letter was published by The Times on Thursday 11th September:

Dear Sir

Chris Packham and Clive Aslet are right that we now have to be brave and realistic when making decisions about restoring our precarious wildlife populations (So we’re agreed: animals have to be hunted - Comment 9/9/2014).

We have studied lapwing populations in the Avon Valley in Hampshire since the 1990s and recent surveys indicate that despite habitat improvements aimed at waders, between 1980 and 2013 lapwing numbers declined from 260 pairs to 71 pairs.

We have monitored 296 nests of which 44% failed due to predation. The total proportion of nests lost was 53%, the difference was down to flooding and trampling.  Data from miniature temperature loggers in 39 predated nests revealed that 49% of nests were predated at night, and were likely to have been taken by mammals such as foxes, with 41% taken during the day, most likely by corvids or gulls.

Clearly, maintaining or restoring appropriate habitat is essential, but, at least in the short-term, some relief from predation seems necessary to enable populations to recover. There is no doubt that lapwings and other waders are in serious trouble. However, 30 farmers in the Avon Valley are working together at a landscape scale to try and save the lapwing. They will seek to reduce predation in this lowland river valley because without  some commitment to reverse these declines, we are likely to lose 50% of these wonderful birds in the next five years. 

Dr Andrew Hoodless
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

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