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Test flying an RSPB drone

This project has trialled its fair share of hi-tech bird monitoring techniques over the years, online but we experienced a new one this week when we had the opportunity to test fly an RSPB drone. The drone was fitted with a camera, GPS device and altimeter, and we tested it around our release sites. We […]

28th November 2014

The RSPB, University of Bath and Great Bustard Group have announced today that they will be parting company. After four years of progress in re-introducing the great bustard to the UK, the partnership is now coming to an end.

The RSPB, University of Bath and Great Bustard Group joined forces in 2011 when the RSPB secured a £1.8million EU grant on behalf of the partnership to re-introduce the great bustard in the UK.

The money has been used to pioneer rearing techniques, monitor progress, and lease and manage land in Wiltshire, on to which the birds can be released. The project has also trialled sourcing birds from Spain and Russia to see whether their survival in the UK will be improved.

Although there has been progress on key aspects of the project, it has become clear that there are differences in the preferred approach to this reintroduction project.

Dr. Darren Moorcroft, speaking on behalf of the RSPB, said: “Reintroducing species to landscapes where they have been absent for many years is no easy task. From our long experience with species as diverse as white-tailed eagles, cranes and cirl buntings, we do not underestimate the technical challenges. Neither do we underestimate the professional challenges of organisations working together that so clearly share a passion for birds on a project where so much change has been required to get it to a position where it has a chance of succeeding.

“Sadly it became clear recently that disagreements existed between the partners over key aspects of the project. As in any relationship, the parties have strived to reconcile their differences. However, this is a pioneering conservation project and, unfortunately, partners couldn’t find agreement. So, with so little time left on the project, we have agreed to differ and go our separate ways.”

“We believe the work carried out since 2011 has improved the prospects for great bustard conservation. The RSPB supports the aims of the Great Bustard Group, and wishes them well as it continues to pursue its efforts for a self sustaining population of bustards in the UK. The RSPB, building on its long history of working closely with many landowners in the area, we will continue to advise these landowners on the habitats required to assist the survival of the birds, alongside other species.”

David Bond, Chairman of Trustees, speaking on behalf of the Great Bustard Group, said "The Great Bustard Group has been working to re-introduce the great bustard to the United Kingdom for nearly two decades. We are happy to have had the opportunity to work positively with the RSPB and the University of Bath under the auspices of the EU’s LIFE+ programme. The programme has accelerated our efforts and we hope to carry that momentum into our continuing work to establish self-sustaining populations of this magnificent bird."

Professor Tamas Szekely, the University of Bath’s lead scientist on the project said: ‘We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to participate in this ambitious project and glad to provide scientific advice. We have learnt an immense amount from the project, both from a conservation and a scientific point of view. We are in agreement that it is now time to bring the project to a close.’

Official project end date is 30th November 2014

The Great Bustard

The great bustard Otis tarda is a globally threatened species that is listed on Annex I of the EC Birds Directive and is also identified as a priority for LIFE+ funding. It was formerly widely distributed across large parts of lowland Europe, but started to decline in the 18th century and is now absent from much of its original range. It became extinct from the UK in 1832, and from numerous other European nations over the rest of the 19th and the 20th centuries. It is still declining in most of the countries where it survives.

This is an update to the first film made four years ago and reflects the position of the LIFE+ project in 2012.

Since the making of this update, Great Bustards have been sourced from Spain and there have been many positive developments in the rearing of the chicks.

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