Wildlife group's concern at duck cull

ESSEX Wildlife Trust will not allow Government officials onto its land to shoot ruddy ducks which are currently facing a mass cull.Ruddy ducks, a native species of North America, were introduced in captivity in Britain in the 1940s.

By Juliette Maxam

ESSEX Wildlife Trust will not allow Government officials onto its land to shoot ruddy ducks which are currently facing a mass cull.

Ruddy ducks, a native species of North America, were introduced in captivity in Britain in the 1940s. Some ducks escaped and bred with great success in the wild.

Now the European ruddy duck population has exploded, and the Spanish white-headed duck is said to be threatened with extinction as a result of cross-breeding with ruddies heading south for winter


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The Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is spending £5.4 million over the next six years on a cull of the species in Britain.

Yesterday , Essex Wildlife Trust announced DEFRA marksmen will not be allowed on its nature reserves unless the Government obtains compulsory access orders.

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The Trust believes DEFRA will not be able to shoot all ruddy ducks and that some will escape and quickly start breeding again.

Trust reserves at Abberton Reservoir, near Colchester, and Hanningfield Reservoir, near Chelmsford, have populations of up to 500. Both reservoirs are protected wildlife sites due to their importance for overwintering birds.

The Trust is "extremely concerned" about the disturbance that shooting ruddy ducks at the reservoirs would cause.

Instead of the cull, the Trust believes it would be better to remove the small number of ruddy ducks that live in Spain and the rest of the cash could be spent on other conservation priorities such as restoring wildlife habitats and stopping the import of further invasive species.

"We see no value in spending this money in Britain unless we know that other European countries closer to Spain will take action and this would include the restoration of habitats in Spain which have been damaged and shot over for many years," said Graham Game, of Essex Wildlife Trust.

"Until proper scientific research is completed and a better practical approach is worked out, we see little point in spending £5.4 million, therefore we cannot agree to voluntary access. If DEFRA want to shoot they will have to force access on us."

A DEFRA spokeswoman said: "This is not a decision the Government has taken lightly and we hope

landowners will co-operate. We will be working to negotiate voluntary access on key sites. It is not crucial to have access to all sites where ruddy ducks breed. However, access to the main post-breeding and wintering sites where large numbers of ruddy ducks congregate would probably be

necessary for a successful eradication programme.

"In the meantime we are continuing research on non-lethal methods such as egg-pricking, with the aim of developing control techniques to suit different locations."

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