Against All Odds: A Red Kite’s Tale

If we were to look back through the fictitious history book that is published in my imagination, titled ‘Past Conservation Issues of the UK’, where all conservation issues that were previously a problem were documented, there would be one topic within that would be near impossible to avoid, whether you wanted to or not. In fact, this particular issue would not only have its own volume with countless chapters, but it would probably pop up unexpectedly, in relation to other topics. What is this topic? Well, it is one that has been prevalent throughout the centuries and unfortunately, it is not a past issue. No indeed, because it is still very much a big problem. Although things have improved to an extent (arguably), it just seems impossible to shake this problem. Have you guessed it? Two words: raptor persecution.

Two words which, if many of us had our way, would never again be associated with each other, nor uttered in the same sentence. But this is not the case and as we know, bird of prey persecution is not picky when it comes to choosing its victims. Over our countries history, nearly every species of raptor native to our lands have experienced persecution. Today this persecution has far from ceased and is still continuing. Now, it may not be as prevalent as it once was and there may now be laws against it when once there were none, but that does not mean that problem is disappearing. Unfortunately, my ficticious work is rather a depressing read, with an unprecedented number of birds being shot, trapped and poisoned over the years. Often, when people write about this type of persecution, they are not usually tales with happy endings, in fact, they are quite the opposite. They are tales that usually end with a dead, or in some cases, several dead raptors. However, this time, there is a big thick silver lining in the persecution cloud, as the latest case of persecution has ended with a defiant victor. A red kite. Red Kite
Red Kite

But before we get too excited, this tale does begin as they all do, with the body of a raptor, or at least, what was thought to be just a body. Discovered by a tenant farmer in a field in Low Marishes, our heroin, a female red kite, was found in poor condition, with multiple gunshot wounds to her body, but she was still alive. Action was taken quickly and the female was taken immediately to receive urgent medical attention. She survived and she is now being rehabilitated and cared for in a Yorkshire wildlife rescue centre. After undergoing x-rays, it was obvious that the red kite had been shot with a shotgun, with injuries to both her wings and neck, with shot gun pellets found lodged below her throat. This red kite has been labelled ‘very lucky to be alive’ and she is now described as ‘faring well.’

Red kites are under the protection of schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. Once extinct in the UK and Scotland, over the past 50 years their populations have slowly been recovering and there are now thought to be around 1800 pairs of the bird across Britain. In England, it is an offence to kill or injure a red kite and can fetch a £5000 fine or up to 6 months in jail.

Unfortunately, we are yet to hear of any information about a possible arrest of the individual that committed this crime. Hopefully, they will be identified in the near future. Although the fate of this individual remains unclear and though there is a distinct possibility that they may never be caught, at least in this case our bird of prey has survived and will live in the wild again. There are many points to this story that are of course negative. The fact that someone attempted to kill this bird. The fact that persecution is still prevalent in our country. The fact that the perpetrator has not yet been found. But despite all of this, there is one fact amongst them all that is my firm favourite. That there is one message we can send to whoever tried to kill this magnificent bird:

You failed.

I would say I hope many fail again in their future attempts at illegal persecution, and of course I do, but there would be something even better than that. That persecution is not even attempted. Unfortunately, cases where raptors have survived attempted persecution is rare. Persecution cases are not few and far between, yet they are against the law. A deterrent that seems of little interest to some.

Anyone with any information concerning this incident, is asked to contact the North Yorkshire police. Anyone with any information on any persecution cases should also always contact the police.



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Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard
I have been a bird enthusiast since I was a child and have just completed my MSc at Newcastle University on 'Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Management.'
Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard

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