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The race to save the turtle dove

Last modified: 24 October 2014

Turtle dove in flight

Image: Graham Catley

Wildlife enthusiast Tristan Reid is going the extra mile to help support the effort to save one of England’s most threatened birds, the turtle dove.

This spring Tristan pledged to run an incredible 1000 miles, including 14 marathons, in aid of turtle doves. On 26 October he is running his 1000th mile as he crosses the finishing line of the Leicester marathon.

Tara Proud, spokesperson for the RSPB says: “It has been an honour to follow Tristan’s physical and emotional dedication in order to serve his passion for saving the turtle dove. 

“Today turtle dove numbers in the UK are just 5% of what they were in 1970 - their numbers are halving every six years! Turtle doves have been lost from many areas of since 1990. At this rate, complete extinction of the turtle dove as a breeding species in the UK is a real possibility. We owe such gratitude to Tristan for flying a flag for this iconic bird.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the extinction of North America’s passenger pigeon, one the most abundant bird in North America.

Tara Proud says: “The story of the passenger pigeon is unsettlingly similar to that of the turtle dove here in the UK.

“The parallels are striking; both are migratory doves; both are being threatened by habitat loss, unsustainable hunting and disease. Passengers pigeons plummeted to extinction in just a few decades and turtle doves are heading the same way. It’s too late for passenger pigeons, but we don’t have to let turtle doves go the same way.”

Tristan Reid speaks about the race: “I only started running during February 2013, so this has been a very big challenge!”.

Tristan’s marathons have included London, Coniston Lakeland Trails, the St Bega’s Ultra and running the full 84 mile length of Hadrian’s Wall over three days. You can find out more about this incredible fundraising project here: Tristan plans to continue his fundraising in 2015 with more distance running.

Operation Turtle Dove was launched in May 2012 to stop our turtle doves following the same path as passenger pigeons. Operation Turtle Dove is a partnership conservation project between the RSPB, Conservation Grade, Natural England and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust. The partnership is identifying the primary causes of the decline through research right across their long migration. It then develops urgent practical solutions, such as advising farmers how they can provide food for turtle doves on their land.

How you can help

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. We can all help by giving nature a home where we live.

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