COLUMN: Let’s stop the persecution of our Debryshire wildlife

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A recent report found that 16 birds of prey were killed or abused in Derbyshire last year.

This news shines a light on one of Derbyshire’s darkest secrets. The persecution of birds of prey, also called raptors, is a very real problem in the Peak District.

Female hen harrier in flight

Female hen harrier in flight

This issue is currently creating a national conflict between conservationists and those involved with the management of land for the shooting of game birds, who are deemed responsible for these actions.

I want to make it clear that there are many land owners and gamekeepers out there working hard with conservation organisations to support and increase populations of raptors on their land.

Shamefully, for the 21st century, there is also a minority out there that think that anything with a hooked beak needs to be wiped off the face of the earth.

The hen harrier epitomises the whole issue and is the bird that’s found itself at the centre of the national conflict over raptor persecution, with the Peak District being the eye of the storm.

Studies have scientifically proven that the moors of the Peak District should be able to support several breeding pairs of hen harriers.

This summer, there were none.

In an age where we clearly know how detrimental an absence of key predators is to an ecosystem, the fact that vast tracts of ideal habitat have such unnaturally low numbers of raptors is alarming. Certain parts of the Peak are infamous for being black holes for our birds of prey. We monitor them entering these areas, only for them never to be seen again.

Let’s not forget too, that this is a criminal offence.

These birds are amongst the most iconic creatures that we share the land with. A magnificent collection of hunters, exquisitely crafted through millions of years of evolution to become the astounding animals we get the pleasure of witnessing today.

Their continued persecution is inexcusable, an archaic remnant of a time when we relentlessly abused the natural world without second thought. Let’s put a stop to this in the coming year.