Poisoners threaten Scotland's red kites

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The Independent Online

The reintroduction of red kite to Scotland could be in jeopardy because a poisoning campaign has led to about a third of the population being wiped out.

The reintroduction of red kite to Scotland could be in jeopardy because a poisoning campaign has led to about a third of the population being wiped out.

Last year saw the worst spate of illegal poisoning since the birds of prey were reintroduced in 1989. The large hawk-like predators are considered a pest by gamekeepers. They have been lobbying for the right to kill the birds, blamed for eating grouse and pheasant and threatening their livelihoods.

In the Black Isle, the first area colonised by the reintroduced birds, 36 per cent of the population has been lost in 12 months. "It is a horrible death for each bird – and cumulatively the practice is having a huge impact on red kite numbers," said Duncan Orr-Ewing, Scotland's head of species policy for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. With only 40 breeding pairs in Scotland, conservationists fear for the bird's future. The number of poisonings has doubled since 2000.

The birds, which were extinct in Scotland by 1900 because of shooting, trapping and poisoning, have struggled to regain a sustainable population since their reintroduction.Between 1989 and 1999 a total of 223 chicks were fledged from Red Kite nests in the Black Isle.

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