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What?s happening to wildlife in the Peak District National Park?

New report calls for urgent action on wildlife crime

A hard-hitting report into the disappearance of birds of prey in some areas of the Peak District is published today (Monday, 6 March).

The RSPB’s Peak Malpractice report highlights the alarming facts behind the fortunes of birds such as goshawks, hen harriers and peregrines in the Dark Peak.

Launching the report, Dr Mark Avery, RSPB director of conservation, said: “The continued decline in populations of some of this area’s most magnificent birds of prey and evidence of illegal persecution, has led the RSPB to call for urgent action. We want to see rigorous enforcement of the law and for loopholes that allow illegal activity to be plugged.The northern moorland area of the Peak District National Park is known as the Dark Peak – sadly for birds of prey, it’s very dark indeed.

We fear for the future of protected wildlife in the Dark Peak. In few places have conditions for these birds deteriorated so much or so rapidly. The scale of decline is shocking and to bird of prey experts there is no natural explanation.”

Volunteer fieldworkers have been closely monitoring the fortunes of birds in many of their territories for several years and in many instances adults have been present at the beginning of the breeding season – but then vanish mysteriously.“We can only speculate as to what happens to these birds, but scientific evidence and experience from investigations and convictions across the UK suggests that human interference at the nest or the killing of one or both of the adults is a regular cause of failure,” said Dr Avery.

“Local people and visitors to Derwentdale and the north-east moors of the Peak District are being denied the full, rich experience of the uplands – for some birds of prey and badgers, this really is a matter of life or death,” he added.In the area highlighted in the report, detailed monitoring shows that:

* Goshawks have much lower nesting success than elsewhere in Britain and have now been wiped out as a breeding species in the north-east moors of the Peak.
* Successful breeding by peregrines is now intermittent, with a history of repeated nest failures and unexplained losses during the breeding season
* Ravens nest less successfully in Derwentdale than in other areas of Britain, including the nearby White Peak
* An inexplicably large proportion of badger setts in woods adjacent to grouse moors showed unexpectedly low levels of activity Dr Avery went on: “This report does not lay blame at any particular door. But if this part of the Dark Peak is a no-go zone for some of Britain’s most cherished wildlife, it reinforces the urgent need for statutory agencies, voluntary groups and landowners to protect wild birds and tackle any criminal activity against wildlife with renewed vigour and determination.”

Studies across the UK show many examples where birds of prey - particularly peregrines, golden eagles and hen harriers - fare much worse when they nest on moors managed for driven grouse-shooting.Dr Tom Moat, Team Manager, English Nature Peak District and Derbyshire Team, said: "The report by the RSPB on persecution of some species of wildlife in the Peak District National Park is of great concern to us. The report suggests that the areas where protected species have been affected coincide with driven grouse moors. These include some of the most important nature conservation sites in Europe.

English Nature is working very closely with the Moorland Association, which represents grouse moor managers. Both organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding where we robustly condemn bird of prey disturbance and persecution and are committed to trying to ensure it does not occur.

This is coupled with a commitment by both organisations to build on the many positive things that grouse moor managers do and can do, alongside a driven shoot, to sustain and enhance the nature conservation interest of these very important sites."

Copies of Peak Malpractice can be downloaded from the RSPB website on www.rspb.org.uk/peakmalpractice

4th July 2014