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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 16:35 GMT
'Disgrace' of peregrine attacks
Peregrine falcon
The peregrine falcon became a protected species in the UK in the 1960s
Wales is a hotspot for illegal attacks on one of the world's fastest birds of prey, experts have warned.

The UK Raptor Working Group, which advises the government, says peregrine falcons are being targeted here.

Peregrines are often blamed for attacks on racing pigeons, but the advisory group's Professor Colin Galbraith said this fear was overstated.

The Countryside Council for Wales is working with police to cut down attacks - often poisonings or shootings.

Professor Galbraith said peregrines, which are a protected species, are "top predators" and were a key indicator of the health of the environment where they live.

Their persecution, he added, was "a disgrace".

"There seem to be two or three hotspots in the UK and Wales is one.

We are concerned about the amount of peregrines nesting in city areas
Edward Lyons, Welsh Homing Union

"Wales has a long tradition of pigeon racing, which focuses the pigeon population. But we think peregrines actually take a small percentage of racing pigeons.

"What they tend to take is the feral ones which have strayed on their own or into towns."

In order to tackle the problem, he said more initiatives, such as the police's UK-wide Operation Artemis which began last year, were needed.

Edward Lyons, president of the Welsh Homing Union, admitted its members were worried about their pigeon stocks, but said the organisation did not condone any attacks against birds of prey.

"We are concerned about the amount of peregrines nesting in city areas," he said. "Some of us can't let our birds out."

Racing pigeon
Pigeons are known to be attacked by peregrines

But Mr Lyons said attacks by peregrines on pigeons when they were in the wild, were simply a hazard of the sport.

The report published on Thursday is not the first time Wales has been singled out as problem area for attacks on birds of prey.

In 2003, a report by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) found 34 attacks occurred in south Wales in one year.

The number of peregrines in the UK fell during World War II, when many were shot amid fears they could kill pigeons carrying vital messages.

A further decline since the 1950s was blamed on the use of insecticides which have now been banned.

The peregrine population has since recovered, although it remains protected.


SEE ALSO:
Pigeon report 'clears' raptors
24 Apr 04 |  Scotland
Birds of prey under attack
24 Jul 03 |  Wales
Fine for killing sparrowhawk
19 Jan 04 |  North West Wales


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