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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 October 2007, 23:19 GMT 00:19 UK
Experts bid to help birds of prey
Falconer Geoff Clayton with golden eagle Shirko

Experts from 60 countries have gathered for a conference at Loch Lomond aimed at helping save rare birds of prey.

Delegates are trying to develop an international agreement to conserve endangered migratory birds in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Eagles, falcons, harriers, kites, buzzards and osprey are among the 77 species of birds that could benefit.

The aim is to bring together expertise from around the world to monitor and protect the birds.

It is also hoped that funds will be raised for future conservation activity.

Two years ago, an independent study commissioned by Defra found that more than 50% of the birds likely to be covered by the agreement were threatened either at the global or regional level.

I have pledged an initial 10,000 towards the practical conservation work that an agreement will undertake
UK climate change and biodiversity minister Joan Ruddock

UK climate change and biodiversity minister Joan Ruddock is among those who will attend the conference.

She said: "There is no doubt these magnificent birds are under serious threat. Our commitment to their conservation is clear.

"The government has brought together experts from around the world to develop an agreement for their conservation.

"I have pledged an initial 10,000 towards the practical conservation work that an agreement will undertake."

The experts are discussing the geographical boundaries of the proposed agreement, the species to be covered, and whether or not it should be legally binding.

The agreement is expected to be finalised at a meeting in the United Arab Emirates in 2008.

'Iconic species'

The decline in numbers of migratory birds of prey are being driven by a variety of human-induced threats, such as habitat loss and degradation and electrocution by power lines.

Other issues include climate change and direct persecution in the form of illegal shooting and poisoning.

Michael Russell, Scottish environment minister, said: "I am delighted to see so many delegates from around the world at Loch Lomond.

"Birds of prey are iconic species for Scotland but the huge international presence shows that we are not alone in our respect and admiration for raptors."

Professor Colin Galbraith, director of policy and advice at Scottish Natural Heritage, said: "I am confident that the meeting will lead to a new conservation plan for these species in the 21st Century."

A golden eagle flying in Scotland

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