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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 03:12 GMT
Poisoning kills third of red kites
A red kite in flight
RSPB said 2001 was the "worst" year for poisonings
More than one-third of red kites reintroduced to Scotland have been illegally poisoned, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

The RSPB said 2001 was "by far the worst" year for poisoning of the birds since a special programme of reintroduction started in 1989.

Research by the conservation group found evidence to suggest 36% of the birds released under the programme had been lost because of the practice.

The RSPB said a record 10 of the birds had been the victims of wildlife crime in 2001.

Red kites are extremely vulnerable to the illegal practice of the indiscriminate poisoning of wildlife

Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland
Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland's head of species policy, said: "This research highlights what we have strongly suspected for several years: red kites are extremely vulnerable to the illegal practice of the indiscriminate poisoning of wildlife.

"Unfortunately red kites, being largely scavengers, take poisoned baits all too readily.

"It is a horrible death for each bird - and cumulatively the practice is having a huge impact on red kite numbers."

Mr Orr-Ewing said the future expansion of the red kite population in Scotland was at risk.

Reintroduced populations

He said all the efforts of voluntary groups, Scottish Executive agencies and the farmers and landowners who had helped the project were put in jeopardy by the poisonings.

The estimate of poisonings is drawn from the detailed figures for mortality and disappearance in the reintroduced populations in The Black Isle in Moray and Stirlingshire.

The RSPB said significant levels of poisoning had blighted both groups.

A red kite in flight
Some of the poisoned birds were reintroduced this year
In August 2001, red kites were seen in the skies over Dumfries and Galloway for the first time in more than 150 years, when 19 birds were released at a secret location.

The first poisoned red kites from this reintroduction have already been found, said the group.

Because of the relatively small numbers of birds involved, and the ease of identification, the experts said their research "offers a clear insight into the overall level of bird of prey persecution in Scotland".

The RSPB also said the figures compared unfavourably with England where reintroduction of the red kite into the Chilterns area had proved a success.

The RSPB said the birds drew large numbers of tourists to areas where they had been reintroduced and there was a red kite tourist trail in the Black Isle area.

Similar plans are being considered for Dumfries and Galloway. Red kites are protected by law but RSPB Scotland has been campaigning to make their special protection more effective.

The RSPB's Lloyd Austin & ex-gamekeeper Ronnie Rose
discuss the issues surrounding the poisoning of red kites
Louise Batchelor reports
"The brids are easily tempted by poisoned bait."
See also:

09 Aug 01 | Scotland
Red kites fly free over Galloway
13 Jul 01 | Scotland
German red kites fly into Scotland
09 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Wild bird poisonings soar by half
27 Apr 01 | Scotland
Fury at rare bird deaths
18 Feb 01 | Wales
Flying high for red kite
01 Dec 00 | Wales
Secrets of rare bird screened
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