My last column was about the mischievous challenge to the RSPB by bird shooting interests who want more of its money to be spent on nature reserves and less on campaigning. With perfect timing something has happened since then to demonstrate why organisations like the RSPB need to campaign and lobby.
In distant Quito in Ecuador governments, including ours through the EU, have been meeting to improve international protection for wildlife. Migratory birds, subject to massive persecution in such places as North Africa and Malta, were one topic, others included lead shot poisoning and diclofenac, a chemical used to treat both people and animals.
In the case of lead shot, new and tougher regulations to control its use were agreed. These are needed because lead shot contaminates wounded birds, and in turn poisons their predators and scavengers. Shot which falls to the ground is ingested by many birds with the grit they swallow to help digest their food. Migrating birds, making landfall on coastal marshes favoured by wildfowlers, are especially vulnerable.
Diclofenac’s presence in dead livestock is fatal to some scavengers, especially vultures, which have been virtually wiped out in parts of India because of it. European vultures are at similar risk if its use is not banned. The loss of the vultures has led to an increase in rats and feral dogs, leading in turn to increased health risks to people. If this happens in Europe it could affect your holiday destination.
The background work which leads to such international protection is done by organisations such as the RSPB and the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust. They are the ones who campaign to place the issues on the political agenda, and then lobby for support for protective measures. Needless to say the shooting interests complaining about the RSPB have come out against the new lead shot regulations. They not only want to be free to kill birds, but to do so in ways that cause wider harm.
As birds move freely around the world it should be blindingly obvious to all but the vested interests that organise shooting, or sell chemicals, that owning and managing reserves can never be enough to fulfil the charitable objectives of wildlife protection charities. Research, lobbying and advising governments and others is crucial to modern nature conservation.