Conservationists Mr and Mrs Bowker, from Wildboarclough, in Cheshire, are suing the RSPB for defamation after the organisation told them their research on blackgrouse was unsound and could have contributed to the species? decline.

The couple were commissioned by the Forestry Commission and Severn Trent Water to undertake a four-year study into a blackgrouse breeding site near Lake Vyrnwy, in Wales, close to the RSPB?s reserve. After charting a severe decline in numbers, they published a paper, with co-author Dr David Baines, warning that attacks by predators such as falcons and foxes could lead to the extinction of blackgrouse in the British Isles.

But after painstakingly monitoring the falling survival rates and breeding patterns of the highly endangered blackgrouse, the couple were told by the RSPB that, rather than helping the species, their research could have actually damaged the birds. Scientists from the organisation suggested that the radio-tagging they carried out on blackgrouse chicks might have caused them to be more vulnerable to predators.

An internal email and two letters sent by the RSPB to the Forestry Commission and Severn Trent Water criticised the couple?s methods, claiming they were untried and untested.

The rest of this article appears in 17th November issue of Shooting Times.

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