TV presenter joins protest over killings

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A television presenter was among a group of conservationists who took part in a peaceful protest against the illegal killing of a protected species of bid.

Chris Packham joined Dr Mark Avery and 600 bird enthusiast at Derwent Dam on Sunday, shortly before the start of the red grouse shooting season, to protest about what they claim to be illegal killing of hen harriers by the shooting fraternity.

The event at the dam was one of three taking place across the country as part of National Hen Harrier Day, organised by the Birders Against Wildlife Crime and North West Raptor Protection Group.

Chris said: “We’ve simply had enough. We’re not going to put up with our natural heritage being slaughtered and be told that it’s OK because it protects our landscape.

“Our beautiful birds of prey are still being illegally killed so it’s time for us to start shooting back.”

He added that the aim of the protest was to raise awareness of the bird’s plight.

The hen harrier is on the brink of extinction as an English breeding bird – only three pairs of the once common raptor nested this year.

The protestors claim this is due to continued persecution by gamekeepers, saying birds are often shot or poisoned, or their nest deliberately trampled upon.

The species has been protected for more than 50 years and killing them can be punishable by a fine or even a custodial sentence.

In recent times the uplands and moorlands have been the species stronghold, which has brought them into conflict with grouse moor owners and their gamekeepers.

Dr Mark Avery, formerly head of conservation at the RSPB, has recently launched an e–petition to ban driven grouse shooting outright.

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, speaking on behalf of four wildlife groups, said: “All of the organisations welcome the spotlight on harriers and condemn wildlife crime.

“We need to build on this year’s successful breeding to springboard a wider recovery.

“There is a Defra-led joint recovery plan we wish to see published.

“If implemented it would see the growth of a sustainable population of hen harriers without jeopardising driven grouse shooting, along with the environmental, social and economic benefits it delivers,” she added.