22
Sep
20

Proposed golden eagle reintroduction in Wales: another public meeting & more controversy

Regular blog readers will know there are currently two ‘competing’ organisations working on a potential reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales.

[Young golden eagle, Getty Images]

One of the groups, called the Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project and affiliated with Cardiff University, is taking a well-considered and thoroughly-evidenced approach to evaluate the feasibility of reintroducing golden and white-tailed eagles to Wales. They have an active crowdfunder at the moment to help support their ongoing research (see here)

The other organisation is called Wilder Britain and its sole director, Dr Paul O’Donoghue, appears to be quite good at media soundbites but has been less forthcoming, so far, about the actual details of his grand plan.

Previous blogs that might be informative can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Earlier this month Wilder Britain held the first of several planned public consultation events hosted by Paul O’Donoghue (see here).

The second such event is due to take place this evening:

This evening’s event comes after some unfavourable commentary about the proposed reintroduction in the media and inside the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament.

Last week, Welsh politician Sian Gwenllian raised the issue with Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs (and also the Species Champion for Raptors in Wales).

Their conversation went as follows:

This was then followed up by unfavourable press coverage in The Bangor Aye, which read as follows:

Siân Gwenllian, the Member of the Senedd for the Arfon constituency and Shadow Minister for Plaid Cymru has joined a number of figures to express her concern about a possible reintroduction of eagles to Snowdonia.

Golden eagles have been all but extinct in Wales and England since 1850. Wilder Britain has launched a public consultation following a feasibility study.

In 2019, Cardiff University researchers said Wales was home to “large expanses of potentially suitable eagle habitat” but reintroduction was not likely to happen “for some time”.

Siân Gwenllian MS has said: “There are many reasons to oppose this plan, but the interests of local farmers are undoubtedly a priority.

“I have been in discussions with local farmers, and with the local branch of the FUW, and I share their concerns that these plans could pose an additional danger to local agriculture, an industry which is already facing countless challenges.

“The likely reason that the species disappeared from the area in the first place is insufficient subsistence in the Snowdonia area. This could mean that if reintroduced, local farmers’ lambs would be easy prey for them. That is very worrying. ”

Wilder Britain, the organisation calling for the reintroduction of eagles to Wales, held a public meeting to discuss the plans in Betws-y-Coed in early September.

There is concern that Wilder Britain is interfering with the rigorous research project carried out by the Eagle Reintroduction Wales (ERW) project, led by Cardiff University. That project undertakes careful and detailed research into the environmental and ecological impact of eagle reintroduction.

Siân Gwenllian MS added: “Dr Paul O’Donoghue, director of Wilder Britain, claims that eagles in Snowdonia were culled, but there is ground to believe that their disappearance was due to lack of subsistence for the species.

“This could be a major threat to the area’s wildlife and agricultural stock. We know that eagles can carry the weight of other animals, putting Snowdonia’s biodiversity at risk. ”

Siân Gwenllian raised the issue in a plenary session of the Senedd today with Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for the Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs. Ms Gwenllian asked the minister to ‘state clearly that the Welsh Government will not support these recommendations, and that they need to be put aside as soon as possible.’

Lesley Griffiths MS responded by saying that she appreciated that such proposals were ‘controversial’ and that there were polarised views’, and she noted that all points of view on the issue needed to be considered.

Siân Gwenllian MS said: “It is important that we listen to the voices of farmers who are expressing great concern about this scheme.

“I appreciate RSPB Cymru’s statement that any proposed reintroduction of the species would have to come following thorough research, local consultation, and widespread support from local communities.

“According to my conversations with the FUW, there is reason to believe that that local support does not exist.”

ENDS

It seems that Sian Gwenllian is not a big fan of any proposed eagle reintroduction as she seems to think that golden eagles ‘would put Snowdonia’s biodiversity at risk‘. It’s probably fair to say, based on that statement alone, that Ms Gwenllian’s comprehension of what biodiversity actually is is quite limited, but that’s not necessarily an unsurmountable problem that couldn’t be addressed by some gentle education.

However, it appears that Ms Gwenllian is using the approach of Wilder Britain as reason enough to dismiss any thought of a reintroduction. That was always the danger of having two conflicting groups taking different approaches, and is what we feared might happen as a result.

Thankfully, Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths seems a lot better informed and has a sensible approach to how a proposed reintroduction will be assessed by the Government. In that sense, the Cardiff University-based Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project looks set to tick all the right boxes in terms of its background research, ecological feasibility studies, partnership development and planned public consultations.

Incidentally, in mid-August an FoI was submitted to the Welsh Government’s statutory nature conservation agency, Natural Resources Wales, to find out what correspondence had been received from Wilder Britain about a proposed eagle reintroduction. NRW’s response is now overdue.


18 Responses to “Proposed golden eagle reintroduction in Wales: another public meeting & more controversy”


  1. 1 Chris Greenwood
    September 22, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    This matter clearly empahasises is the disparity of care, concern and interest shown between different species introductions and reintroductions.

    Want to introduce invasive non-native wildlife to be shot for fun? Go ahead, knock yourself out, nobody will bat and eyelid nor care about any environmental consequence. Paperwork? Licence? No need old bean. Crack on.

    Want to reintroduce native iconic species that lived in the landscape for millenia? All hell breaks loose and wild-eyed headlines tell us how we’ll have to lock up our sheep/cows/dogs/small children.

    In many quarters, attitudes to wildlife are still stuck in the dark ages.

    • 2 Les Wallace
      September 22, 2020 at 7:35 pm

      Well said!!!! I would love it if just bloody once there was a public consultation exercise in which the oh so wonderful British public weren’t just asked for their opinion, but had it pointed out to them they had a duty to actually know what they were talking about before they opened their traps, had responsibility to think about the needs of others and remember their moral obligations towards protecting wildlife and our heritage. PC exercises are all too often a platform for loud mouthed ignoramuses and effing drama queens. Too many conservation organisations seem to think pushing the conservation message is being aggressive rather than their job.

  2. 3 Alan Dickinson
    September 22, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    Whats the point in this reintroduction when there is no way of knowing if these birds will stay put and even if they do will they be safe from persecution ??
    I think not.

    • September 22, 2020 at 3:55 pm

      Thanks, Alan. And that’s why the feasibility studies being undertaken by the Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project are so important. Ongoing persecution will be a big issue to consider.

    • September 22, 2020 at 4:25 pm

      I suspect that it would just tell us where they were being shot, as they would have to be satellite tagged.

      • September 22, 2020 at 4:43 pm

        I should clarify, i don’t necessarily mean in Wales but any eagles wandering to Northern Ireland or the English uplands during their 5+ pre-breeding years would be highly unlikely to survive even their first year. I don’t know enough about Ireland. I would love to see both eagles species breeding wherever they can be supported ecologically but with raptor persecution of upland species totally out of control i see it no more than a criminal data gathering exercise and that is not what re-introductions are supposed to be about.
        First ban driven grouse shooting, licence all other shooting and then re-introduce where and if necessary.

  3. September 22, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    The anti-eagle lady claims that the eagles didn’t become extinct from persecution but from lack of food. Off hand i don’t know which is most true but assume it is probably the former just as it has for all raptors (that and DDT) but i find it hilarious that she also claims that eagles would be taking too many lambs (that is obviously her angle). So which is it. Is there too little food or too much?

    • 8 Jimmy
      September 22, 2020 at 4:23 pm

      Clearly the woman is clueless on the matter if she thinks the reasons eagles disappeared was “cos they ran out of food”!! I think we can safely assume the “usual suspects” are filling here head with such nonsense!!

  4. 9 Simon Tucker
    September 22, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    Let’s face it, after Brexit, with the way the “negotiations” and intentions to break international law are going, Welsh farmers will have only a very limited market for their sheep, so they might as well let the eagles have a few! They won’t be able to sell them.

  5. 10 Paul V Irving
    September 22, 2020 at 4:50 pm

    As a mid Wales resident sheep are probably the greatest reason for the decline in biodiversity in Wales and are a continuing problem or at least conventional sheep farming is the problem. The recently dead Eagle lived here in the Cambrian mountains for at least 10 years, so there must be in that region at least enough food to sustain birds but we need to know if there is enough food in that critical late winter period to get birds into breeding condition.

  6. 11 Tat
    September 22, 2020 at 6:22 pm

    It seems to me that Mr o’Donoghue and his rewilding Britain [Ed: Wilder Britain] have muddied the waters. The Eagle Reintroduction Wales project is taking a well reasoned, carefully thought through and scientific approach. Te Rewilding Britain [Ed: Wilder Britian] “project” seems to have no such logical approach, but likes a good sound bite, as a means of driving donations for an ill defined purpose.

    [Ed: Thanks, Tat, for presenting this as an opinion rather than fact. The libel lawyers will appreciate that!]

  7. 12 Les Wallace
    September 22, 2020 at 7:55 pm

    TBH I don’t think it will make the slightest difference who puts forward plans for eagle reintroductions in Wales, they and in fact pretty much any scheme for decent wildlife conservation they will be shot down by the mutton mafia. Wales is rapidly becoming a grave yard for rewilding initiatives. It’s interesting to note that while landowners across England are falling over themselves to get beavers on to their land, to my knowledge there’s not one doing so in Wales. That’s pretty bloody poor especially given the massive need to reduce the runoff from the Welsh hills that’s putting places like Gloucester at a high risk of flooding.

  8. 13 Tim Dixon
    September 22, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    “We know that eagles can carry the weight of other animals”
    Well I never! Who’d have thought it. What, an Eagle!
    But then so can Goldcrests so what shall we do about then.
    If this is the quality of her intellect then Plaid Cymru have got real problems. But then she was a BBC journalist so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

  9. September 22, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    One thing I did learn while I was there. The NFU policy is to oppose the reintroduction of ANY species!!! Will email you rest in a bit.


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