Evidence about the importance of predation control in conservation has been put forward in Westminster in the hope that general licenses will be permanently re-introduced.
Scientists and advisors from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) presented research to an all-party parliamentary group meeting of MPs and Lords on Tuesday (July 16).
Using data collected over a decade from upland moorland, Otterburn in Northumberland, Dr Mike Swan, adviser and head of education at the GWCT, said management of predators such as foxes, crows, and weasels, improved the chances of ground-nesting birds.
In sites where predation control was implemented, there was an increase in pairs that fledged young of several key species – ground-nesting raptors were up 57 per cent, curlew up 51 per cent, golden plover 75 per cent, and lapwing 57 per cent.
The organisations hope their evidence will encourage Defra to re-introduce general licences permanently, so that land managers can continue to control pests and predators easily.
General licences (GL04, 05 and 06) were revoked in April following a legal challenge involving campaign group Wild Justice.
Last month Defra re-introduced the three licenses temporarily until 29 February 2020, following a call for evidence which produced 4,000 responses and raised concerns about livestock, eggs and fledglings of birds. A consultation is currently taking place for what should happen next.
The temporary licences do not cover European protected sites, and Sir Nicolas Soames MP, who chaired the meeting in Westminster, said questioning in Parliament this week had revealed little about the direction these might take.
Dr Alastair Leake, director of policy at the GWCT, said there was a ‘higher level of consciousness’ in society about wildlife and conservation, and so it was important that future general licences were legally robust so further legal challenges did not happen.
“For farmers, it is a matter of their livelihoods, whether it be someone protecting their lambs, or an arable farmer protecting their crops,” said Dr Leake.
“And right now [general licensing] is another uncertainty to deal with along with Brexit.
“However, we are moving in the right direction at the moment, where general licences will be more legally robust. And the evidence is there - there are species that are not thriving and we have seen that controlled management of predators can make a big difference.”