HRH The Duke of Cambridge is the new patron of the British Trust for Ornithology, taking over from his grandfather, Prince Philip

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The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has appointed HRH The Duke of Cambridge as its new patron, in a move that has sparked disquiet in some quarters. Prince William is a keen shooter and attracted criticism in August for taking his son Prince George on a Scottish grouse shoot.

However, the Prince has sound conservation credentials. He recently launched the international Earthshot prize to tackle climate change and has led strong calls to end the illegal wildlife trade. As for the grouse shooting, published research by the Moorland Association has found that where moors are managed by gamekeepers, ground-nesting birds such as curlew and lapwing are 3.5 times more likely to fledge a chick.

Shooting UK contacted the RSPB, asking for a comment on the Prince’s appointment who replied saying: “It’s not something we’d comment on.”

Dr Mark Avery of Wild Justice was also contacted but at the time of writing has not yet replied.

Commenting on the appointment, a Palace statement said: “The British Trust for Ornithology aims to empower communities to protect local bird species and their natural habitats in order to ensure they are preserved for generations to come, whilst also working to promote the benefits of the natural world on our health and wellbeing.”

Liam Bell, chairman of the National Gamekeepers Organisation, applauded the appointment: “‘I think the Duke of Cambridge agreeing to be patron of the BTO is excellent news. The BTO is a very well respected research organisation, and the Duke of Cambridge an equally well respected practical conservationist, who follows in the steps of both his father and grandfather.’

Shooting Times contributor Graham Downing agreed: “I’ve got a lot of time for the BTO. It’s a non-partisan, science-based organisation which produces sound research and which co-ordinates the monthly Wetland Bird Survey counts around our estuaries. Many of the volunteers who do the bird counts are wildfowlers, and through the BTO they make a significant contribution to wildfowl conservation. Prince William has excellent conservation credentials and takes over from his grandfather, Prince Philip who is a longstanding friend of the countryside.”