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More Eagles From Norway

Abstract from Journal of Applied Ecology
22nd July 1996

Conservationists responsible for the successful re-introduction of the huge White-tailed Eagle to Scotland analyzed the results and decided that more were needed to ensure their future.

Writing in the Journal of Applied Ecology Rhys Green, Mike Pienkowski and John Love, from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee document the progress of their project - and predict the future.

Between 1975 and 1985, 82 wild-bred eagles were imported from Norway and carefully released in remote and wild island of Rhum in Western Scotland. They have thrived, as was expected. The reason for this bird's extinction 80 years ago was due to human persecution.

By 1992 there were five established breeding pairs in territories within about 1090 kms of the release site - and a further three pairs that had not yet bred. A total of 29 young birds had been produced - but none of these Scottish-bred birds had nested successfully themselves.

This may seem success in itself but Mike Pienkowski said:

"The re-introduction team are interested in the long-term viability of these birds. We do not want them to be a transitory population but well established to take their rightful, permanent, place in the Scottish skies."

Using the data gathered on survival and productivity the team calculated that there is a three in five chance that the present population could become extinct again in the next 100 years. However a further injection of another 60 young birds could bring the risk of extinction right down to one chance in ten.

What they wanted was a further ten juvenile birds to be released in each of six years. The Norwegian population of this species is very strong and they have turned up trumps. Over the last four years, including 1996, 36 more birds have been released. Thank you Norway!

Between 1993 and 1995 a further 17 youngsters were reared in the wild and 1996 looks like being a record year. It may also prove historic for there is one territory where both parents were bred in Scotland where young may be about to fledge.

Jeremy Greenwood, the Director of the British Trust for Ornithology, commented:

"This project has been very carefully managed with good science based, as our own work is, on both amateur and professional inputs. It is excellent news that they are getting the extra eagles needed to strengthen our population of these magnificent birds."

The final word should go to the team who have master-minded this long-term project. Mike Pienkowski said:

"The introduction of exotic forms of wildlife is fraught with problems and, quite rightly, banned by Law. However the careful re-introduction of species like this, lost through shameful Human persecution, is an excellent example of how modern conservation can make amends for past crimes."

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