Conservation

British hunting and conservation

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Hunting does not only lead to nature conservation in Africa. Selena Barr lists four very real and very current examples from Great Britain….

By Selena Barr – Photography credit: Tweed Media

Trophy hunting is currently the subject of intense debate worldwide. It may be a bitter pill for some to swallow but commercial sport hunting is most certainly a bedfellow with conservation. Now, we all know this to be true – but if you found yourself sitting next to an anti at a dinner party could you rattle off several hard-hitting examples that would silence naysayers and even change opinions? I am proud that conscientious hunters around the world are the caretakers of certain species and it is our job to educate the masses and give them the necessary information about what we do. Here’s four examples to get you going:

Green Shoots

BASC’s programme to allow mapping and counts of species on shoots was launched in 2000 and now covers an extraordinary 4,500 square kilometres. The programme is simple but extremely accurate, and can show trends in species numbers and habitats over time. It gives BASC vital information to put before Government, as well as showing just how important game shooting in the UK is for conservation, not only of quarry species but of all the native wildlife. For more information, visit: www.basc.org.uk.

Red grouse in Scotland

Unique to the British Isles, the red grouse inhabits areas of blanket bog and upland heath, with an estimated 1.3million hectares of upland Britain being influenced by the management of the bird. The UK has 75 per cent of the global expanse of this unique habitat, which is rarer than rainforest. The benefits of land managed for grouse are not restricted to the promotion of a healthy population of this sporting and delicious bird. Annually, tens of millions of pounds are spent on these landscapes, providing employment and revenue in areas where there would be none. Most importantly, however, the conservation benefits are multiple. With many of the upland bird species on the wane, habitat management and predator control are of vital importance to species such as curlew, golden plover, lapwing and dunlin, to name but a few. Other iconic species that benefit from this management are the red grouse’s cousins, the blackgrouse and the capercaillie.

For grouse shooting opportunities, contact The Royal Berkshire Sporting Agency via www.rbss.co.uk

Grey partridge in England

The grey partridge was once the sporting bird for the lowlands, but declined by 80% in the 40 years after World War II. The intensification of agriculture and introduction of herbicides has been one of the most significant factors in the drop in numbers of this species. While the shooting of grey partridge is now infrequent unless a shootable surplus allows for it, the management of pheasant and redleg partridge shoots is of enormous benefit to the bird, and increasing numbers of shoots and farms are making a serious effort to provide good habitat. Predator control is another major factor in conserving grey partridge. There are limited possibilities to shoot grey partridge, many of which are walked-up or over pointers. The conservation of grey partridge also provides benefits to other birds such as lapwings, and it is a classic example of how shooting can, in fact, benefit a species.

Chinese water deer in England

Credit_Tweed Media-61In its native East Asia, Chinese water deer numbers are declining. They are currently classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as ‘vulnerable’. In China and Korea it is not possible to recreationally hunt CWD. In fact, all sport hunting is banned. Therefore the species has little economic value to locals. Despite being endangered, they are treated as an agricultural pest in some areas. They also have to deal with poaching, habitat destruction plus they are illegally hunted for the semi-digested milk found in the stomach of unweaned fawns, which is used in traditional medicine. No proper care is taken to manage the population, it is just a free for all. Eventually, the inevitable will happen: they will become extinct in Asia. Here in the UK, where it is legal to hunt CWD recreationally, landowners have an incentive to keep populations healthy. CWD are thriving in England. The total population is around 2,100 animals, which is 10 per cent of the entire global population.

Hunting a representative male Chinese water deer on Euston Estate costs £800. For more information, email: eustondeerhunting@yahoo.co.uk.

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