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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 07:14 GMT
Kite Country centre back in business
Red kite flying around Tregaron, west Wales
The bird is an increasingly popular site in rural Wales
A centre which marks the survival of one of Wales's most spectacular birds - the red kite - has reopened in mid Wales.

The fight to save the rare bird of prey from extinction began in the town of Tregaron.

Red Kite
The red kite has been adopted as a local symbol

The red kite centre in the town was forced to close in the summer of 2001 due to the foot-and-mouth crisis.

But the attraction has now reopened in an old school, which local children have helped decorate in tribute to some of the area's most famous residents.

Tregaron Bog - Cors Caron - was once home to the last few surviving pairs of red kites.

In the mid 1980s a feeding programme was launched to save the rare birds from dying out.

The campaign to protect them was so successful that the red kite is fast becoming a common sight in the Welsh countryside.

In 2001, its population was reported to be at its highest for 150 years, with some birds sighted in all counties of Wales.

Decorations at the Red Kite Centre in Tregaron
Children have helped decorate the new centre

However, the red kite remains concentrated on the Tywi and Cothi valleys of mid and west Wales.

A survey by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) at the end of 2000 revealed that Wales remained the stronghold for the red kite in the UK.

It reported there were 259 breeding pairs, compared with 71 pairs ten years earlier.

The bird - known as barcud in Welsh - has been adopted as an emblem of mid Wales.

Tourist officers have been keen to capitalise on interest in the birds to promote the region as "kite country".

Naturalist Iolo Williams
Many people visit rural Wales to see the red kite

Other red kite centres in Wales include Nant yr Arian, near Aberystwyth, and Gigrin Farm near Rhayader, mid Wales.

Attempts have been made to re-introduce the bird into other parts of the UK, but with mixed results.

In January, the RSPB revealed that more than a third of red kites released in Scotland had been lost to illegal poisoning.

But the society said there had been more success in breeding the birds in parts of England, including Yorkshire and the Chilterns.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Steve Jones
"The campaign to save the red kite from extinction began in Tregaron Bay"
See also:

03 Jan 02 | Scotland
Poisoning kills third of red kites
02 Aug 01 | UK
Joy as red kite breeds
18 Feb 01 | Wales
Flying high for red kite
01 Dec 00 | Wales
Secrets of rare bird screened
20 Feb 00 | Wales
Red kite boost celebrated
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