A pot of thousands of pounds has been raised to offer as reward in combating the persecution of rare birds following the most recent discovery of a shot red kite in Nidderdale.
Local businesses and the RSPB have joined forces to offer a reward that currently stands at £3,000 for information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of those involved.
Chairman of Nidderdale Chamber of Trade, Keith Tordoff, last week began the groundwork when he offered £500 of his own money through the Herald. Since then he has raised this to £1,000 and has been joined by an anonymous local business who donated an additional £500. The RSPB has now agreed to match this in the hopes of combating the persecution of birds of prey.
Mr Tordoff said: “Nidderdale is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and part of its beauty is seeing these incredible birds soaring overhead. People love seeing them and photographing them, and to hear that they are being targeted is simply disgusting.
“Continued reports of birds of prey being shot is not only damaging the wildlife and countryside of our local area but its reputation as well. We want to send a clear message that the people of Nidderdale do not condone this behaviour and are taking positive action to stamp it out.
“I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is and hope that this reward will help bring these persecutors to justice.”
In North Yorkshire no prosecutions have been secured for 24 confirmed red kite persecution incidents. All of these cases were recorded within the last 10 years and include eight cases of shootings and 16 poisonings
It is hoped that the combined funds from local businesses and the RSPB will help lead to a successful prosecution.
Bob Elliot, head of investigations at the RSPB, said: “We would be delighted to pay out the money if it leads to a successful prosecution. The illegal persecution of red kites and other birds of prey is a serious problem in this area, and we are pleased to see the local community standing alongside us in the fight against wildlife crime.”
Red kites were reintroduced into North Yorkshire from areas including the Chilterns and have been able to reestablish themselves in the area. However there are concerns that the threat of persecution could hamper the growing numbers of birds.
RSPB investigations liaison officer Jenny Shelton says: “The reintroduction of red kites into North Yorkshire has been a great success. These elegant birds are a joyous sight to see and feed mainly on carrion, so pose very little threat to wildlife. However persecution is preventing the birds from expanding their breeding range in areas such as Nidderdale.”
Nidderdale Area of Natural Beauty (AONB) has applauded the efforts to protect the birds from illegal persecution through this cooperative effort.
Paul Burgess, manager of Nidderdale AONB said: “Birds and other species of wildlife make a vital contribution to Nidderdale’s natural beauty. We are devastated to hear that another bird of prey has been killed, and we unreservedly condemn illegal persecution of these birds. It simply has to stop, and we look forward to a successful prosecution of the culprit in this case.
In the meantime, we will continue our fruitful and constructive working relationship with farmers and landowners, business and the wider community to try and ensure that wildlife in the AONB is valued and protected in the future.”
Doug Simpson, MBE, who assists North Yorkshire Police in their investigations with his group the Yorkshire Red Kites, has previously raised concerns that the numbers of protected birds found dead could be part of a bigger problem.
Mr Simpson said: “Persecution of Red Kites and other species has been going on, unchecked, for far too long in the Nidderdale AONB. It is particularly significant that local business people have been driven to putting up rewards totaling £1000 in recognition of the potential damage which the persecution of its wildlife could be having on the area’s economy.
“Apart from the obvious direct effect on the birds, it would appear that a small minority of offenders could be having a serious financial effect on the area’s revenue from tourism. It is good to see and hear that the AONB community is not going to stand by to watch further persecution of its tourist attractions.
“We are particularly appreciative of the efforts made by the many people who have reported casualties, especially those out walking who have spotted dead or injured birds through their careful observation of the countryside around them.
“Sadly, given the remote nature of much of the terrain in the area, it is highly likely that there have been many more poisoning or shooting victims which have not been found.”
If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact police on 101 and RSPB investigations on 01767 680551, or you can fill in the online form at www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx1