The Peak District National Park is failing badly in being a refuge for protected birds of prey. Our National Parks are wildlife crime hotspots because we allow game shooting to dominate the ecology of so many of them.
After five years of ‘co-operation’, when ‘everyone’ was working collaboratively to increase bird of prey numbers, the consortium of the Peak District National Park, the Moorland Association, the RSPB, National Trust and Natural England admitted failure to meet targets.
At a time when Peregrine numbers are rising nationally, particularly in the lowlands, numbers fell in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park (from five pairs to three pairs) and nesting success did not approach the target figure in a single year of the project. This is normal for National Parks with large areas of driven grouse shooting (Peregrines – moor is fewer, 11 November 2011, Inaction speaks louder than words, 12 October 2015).
Rhodri Thomas of the Peak District National Park described the results as ‘concerning and disappointing’. I describe them as ‘entirely predictable and totally unacceptable’. How much more blatant does wildlife crime have to be than the assault on protected wildlife being routinely carried out in this and many other English National Parks?
Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorlands Association, said: “We are renewing our action plan and redoubling our efforts to ensure that this brings improved results. The partnership has also agreed that this work needs to be extended to cover other species, notably goshawk and hen harrier, and to include the South West Peak.” Oh no! If the Moorland Association redoubles its efforts then we might find these declines accelerate!
Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park, said: “Birds like peregrine and goshawk are charismatic species. It is thrilling to see them swoop at speed over moorland, it makes your heart glad to see them soaring high over the Edges – seeing these birds creates fantastic memories for people.
“We will be using the new rigour and energy recently brought to the project to seek to restore breeding success of our iconic bird of prey species in the National Park. We will be seeking a greater level of commitment from partners in the Initiative to reverse the fortunes of birds of prey.”
The response of the consortium is to keep pretending that everyone is on the same side and that chatting about things will bring an end to crime. It won’t.
Quite why our money, via the Peak District National Park and Natural England, is going to continue to go into a talking shop which has failed to produce any progress at all is beyond me. The Peak District National Park is still a wildlife crime hotspot, just as it was in the early years of this century as documented in the Peak Malpractice reports (here and here).
Defra, Natural England and the Peak District National Park have failed to make any difference at all to the success of birds of prey in this area – they are failing, badly, to work for the public good in this National Park. There has been far too much chatting and not enough action. We will now face several more years when the National Park authorities will hide behind this continuing failed project instead of calling a spade a spade and condemning the moorland practices that exclude birds of prey from a National Park – yes, a National Park set up to protect and enhance natural beauty not to be a safe haven for wildlife crime.
It was, perhaps, his frequent exposure of the dire state of affairs in the Peak District National Park which led to Simon Barnes losing his job at The Times (The curious case of Simon Barnes’s departure from The Times, 25 June 2014, Simon Barnes again, 26 June 2014) and it would be surprising if this story gets much prominence there these days.
Read too, Tim Birch’s guest blog published here for a proper sense of outrage at what happens in the Peak District.
The sooner The National Trust ends grouse shooting on its large estate in the Peak District, on and around which much of the raptor persecution appears to occur, the better (National Trust – looking good, 20 September 2013).
If grouse shooting ended in the Peak District then bird of prey numbers would thrive and more people would be thrilled and take home fantastic memories of these charismatic species. Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and you might notice that the High Peak constituency already has one of the highest numbers of signatures. Not surprising is it?