So, the rumour that an eagle owl had been caught on camera attacking a nesting hen harrier (Sharpshooter, 9 June) turns out to be true. Remember where you read it first
Last year, BBC Wildlife Magazine ran a rabid story alleging that hen harriers in the Forest of Bowland had suffered illegal persecution by gamekeepers. There was no evidence for this allegation. Indeed, there was not a single authenticated incident of illegal human interference with hen harriers in England last year. The National Gamekeepers Organisation had to get tough with the magazine over the story, and the editor eventually accepted that the news report in question had been defective. She allowed a right of reply. Now, however, with the news that there have been two breeding pairs of eagle owls scouring the Forest of Bowland for food, we see the real culprits revealed. But will we read about this in BBC Wildlife Magazine? Im not holding my breath…
Foxes are now the bad guys
What a difference a change of Government makes. No sooner do we have tweedy Tories in power than we see the media full of lurid stories about savage urban foxes attacking babies. How the world has changed, eh?
More seriously, there is nothing quite as fickle as the media and the sight of the hack pack in full cry after a fox is wondrous to behold. Some of the very same papers which, not long ago, were expressing synthetic outrage about a cricket club culling a problem fox are now demanding that every fox, everywhere, be exterminated.
The poor antis are bewildered by this unexpected turn of events. They are making a few feeble chirps in defence of foxy-woxies, but the tabloids are on a breast-high scent and wont be deterred by the batsqueaks of protest emanating from beleaguered fox-huggers.
Speaking of antis, some of you may recall seeing a recent story in The Sunday Times by Daniel Foggo, which started off: Save The Rhino, the British charity set up to protect one the worlds most endangered animals, is endorsing the shooting of them for fun and is directly profiting from “trophy hunts” of other species.
Now, Save the Rhino is a splendid conservation charity which does a lot of very good work. If you want to know more about practical rhino conservation and read a detailed rebuttal of The Sunday Times hatchet job look at www.savetherhino.org.
In the meantime, let me just relay one important point about finance that was made by the charity: In general, animal welfare charities generate much higher incomes than those dealing with the conservation of endangered species. The Charity Commission website highlights the huge disparities: in the most recent fi nancial year available The Donkey Sanctuary received £22.5m, Dogs Trust £60.7m and Cats Protection £36.5m. In stark contrast, Save the Rhino received just £868,716, Galapagos Conservation Trust £628,958 and Gorilla Organisation £1.2m. The comparisons are depressing and worthy of far more intelligent journalism.
Did you know that the Army is to start testing lead-free ammunition? I kid you not (see News, page five). BAE Systems is developing new leadfree 5.56mm rifle ammunition and the fi rst batch of one million rounds will be ready soon. The current lead-cored bullets produce a mist of fine lead particles on impact, which is thought to be a hazard for soldiers undergoing range practice. I wonder how long it will be before every packet of military ammunition carries a Government health warning?