Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 June 2019

Eagles could be reintroduced to Wales in new programme

Golden and White-tailed eagles could once more be seen in the skies above rural wales

White-tailed and golden eagles could be set to soar in Wales once more.
White-tailed and golden eagles could be set to soar in Wales once more.

Eagles could be making a return to Wales if a research project is successful.

Researchers from the University of Cardiff are looking into whether the landscape of Wales could support the return of white-tailed and and golden eagles.

Both species went extinct in Wales in the 1800s, although pockets exist in Scotland and Europe. Golden eagles are amber listed and white-tailed eagles are red listed by the European and UK Species of Conservation Concern.

Researchers say that not only would the species themselves benefit from reintroduction, the local economy would likely be boosted. The reintroduction programme of white-tailed eagles, also known as sea eagles, on the west coast of Scotland attracts an extra 1.4 million visitors to the region every year, generating up to £5 million of tourist spend on the Isle of Mull, and supporting 110 jobs.

However, the team is quick to reassure locals that the reintroduction is by no means a foregone conclusion. Although bringing eagles back to Wales has been mooted before, the project is carrying out a full feasibility investigation.

“Wales is home to large expanses of potentially suitable eagle habitat, but, before we begin reintroducing the species, there are many questions we need to answer about the quality of habitat, and whether it can sustain eagles,” said Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project researcher, Sophie-lee Williams from Cardiff University.

“Working closely with partners such as the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Wildlife Trust Wales, we are currently carrying out a full feasibility study which will enable us to answer some of these questions and determine whether the Welsh countryside is a suitable location for eagle reintroduction.”

If research on the local landscape is successful, the next steps are to seek a licence to release the birds and consult with residents about the scheme.

But the project is already facing some opposition. The National Farmers Union’s head of rural affairs, Hedd Pugh, has requested a full consultation with farmers, citing fear for livestock.

“There is a real concern that any reintroduction of this species would risk animal health and welfare and have an impact on livestock production, with newborn lambs particularly at risk,” he told North Wales Live

If Eagles are reintroduced, they will join beavers and capercaillie birds in returning to the UK. Beavers were hunted to extinction in the 16th century, but have been returned to Scotland and Devon recently, not only to boost the population, but also to improve the local ecosystem. Other researchers are looking into the reintroduction of lynx, wolves and Bison to Scotland and Wales.

Updated: February 21, 2019 06:24 PM

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