The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is to host a debate at The CLA Game Fair Theatre on Friday 19 July at 3pm, entitled “Reared shoots can make a significant contribution to wildlife conservation”.

Introduced by DEFRA minister Lord de Mauley, the debate will be chaired by the GWCT’s chairman, Ian Coghill.

Speakers will include the RSPB’s director of conservation Martin Harper; the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation’s Charles Nodder and the GWCT’s Tom Oliver.

The conclusions of the debate will be delivered by Roger Williams MP, vice-chairman of the GWCT All- Party Parliamentary Group.

The debate will follow on from the GWCT launching its innovative ‘Campaign for Game’ on the Friday morning, and shoots across the country are being encouraged to join the initiative.

The GWCT has been developing the campaign for a year, prompted by the need for shoots to demonstrate the benefits to wildlife of game management in response to criticism of game shooting and releasing gamebirds.

A spokesman for the GWCT said: “GWCT research over many years has identified considerable environmental benefits, such as supplementary feeding and habitat management, which can arise from responsible game management.

It is these benefits — already backed by substantial peer-reviewed science — that we wish to harness in this unique campaign, in order to demonstrate the important net conservation gains provided by the game management community — both locally and at a national level.”

GWCT advisers will be available throughout the three days of the Game Fair to talk through the campaign, and will be offering advice on how to join.

In addition to the Campaign for Game, the GWCT will be showcasing a new project that is being undertaken on the Middleton estate in Hampshire, which is investigating the behaviour of pheasant chicks.

The three-year project, which is being run by PhD student Mark Whiteside from Exeter University’s centre for research and animal behaviour, aims to see whether techniques introduced in the early stages of a reared pheasant’s life can help them to survive better once released and potentially to breed in the wild.

The preliminary results could have positive implications for pheasant welfare, as well as the economics and ecology of game management.

Dr Rufus Sage, the GWCT’s head of lowland gamebird research, commented: “Our objective is to improve the fitness of the birds and enable them to adapt more successfully to free-range life before and during the shooting season.”

“Most wild animals learn vital life-skills from their parents, but reared birds do not have the same opportunity to develop survival techniques, such as feeding, from adults. Even at this early stage of our study, the simple act of manipulating their rearing diet at a young age increases their potential survival in the wild.”

There will be a group of live Middleton chicks to demonstrate the workings of the project, and Mark will be at the GWCT stand on the Friday to explain the science.

Sir Jim Paice MP, former minister of state at DEFRA, will also be attending the GWCT members’ area to take part in a question and answer session on Saturday 20 July at 3.15pm.

DEFRA minister Richard Benyon MP will present the GWCT’s Julian Gardner photographic competition awards on the stand at 11.15am on the same day.

The competition will be judged by leading wildlife photographer Laurie Campbell. The GWCT’s stand is adjacent to the main arena.

Say what you think in the Shooting UK forums!