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TV wildlife celebrity Chris Packham will speak out against the illegal persecution of hen harriers and other birds of prey in the UK at a special event hosted by the RSPB at its flagship Arne Nature Reserve in Dorset. Hen Harrier Day South 2017 is one of a series of events being held around the UK on 5/6 August. Organised by Birders Against Wildlife Crime the events will bring attention to the near extinction of English hen harriers brought about by decades of persecution on and around intensively managed grouse moors.
The event will also raise awareness of the illegal killing of birds of prey (also known as 'raptors') in general. In the south west the RSPB has over the past decade has investigated numerous crimes against buzzards, goshawk and peregrine falcons.
Chris Packham said: “Raptor persecution is a crime pure and simple and it robs the UK of some of its greatest natural treasures. Well , we’ve all had enough of it so please join us at Arne to be counted amongst the increasing number of people who are peacefully demanding action to end it . And at the same time have a great day out on one of the RSPB’s finest reserves!”Speaking alongside Chris Packham will be Chris Corrigan, Director of RSPB England: “I grew up in East Lancashire and the unforgettable sight of displaying hen harriers is a happy memory of my childhood on the moors. Yet today those same moors are missing their “skydancing” crown jewels, a story reflected across northern England. The reason for these absences is as clear as it is shocking –decades of persecution on some of their most important moorland breeding sites. It is both shocking and sad that children today are being denied the chance to see hen harriers as I did in my youth. This weekend’s Hen Harrier Day events are an opportunity for people to call for the return of the hen harrier to the skies over England, securing their future for generations to come.”
The event has been organised voluntarily by a group of keen birdwatchers in and around Dorset.
Luke Philips, one of the organisers, said: “Hen harriers are largely responsible for my interest in wildlife. I’ve been lucky enough to have watched hen harriers since I started my interest in wildlife as a teenager wandering over the welsh uplands. The thought of future generations not being able to enjoy this magnificent bird as I did, is not a thought I want to consider and that’s why I’m involved with organising Hen Harrier Day South. “The fact we have to organise Hen Harrier day is a clear demonstration of the huge problem hen harriers are facing. I honestly wish there wasn’t a need to be highlighting the persecution of a spectacular predator but sadly number are so low we have no choice. This simply shouldn’t be happening and should not be losing these birds.” Hen Harrier South will also be attended by award winning children's author Gill Lewis who has recently completed a book about the plight of Hen Harriers. Gill Lewis said: "I’m looking forward to being a part of Hen Harrier Day at Arne to show my support for these incredible birds, and to read from my forthcoming novel, Sky Dancer, a story for children inspired by the campaign to save the hen harrier. In the story, Joe, a gamekeeper’s son, finds himself in a community divided over the fate of hen harriers that nest on the moors, and he is stuck in the middle, with a choice to make and a huge secret to keep. Hen Harrier Day South starts at 11am on 8 August at RSPB Arne Nature Resrve, near Wareham. Luke added: “Problems the natural world affect all of us and we’re hoping to attract people from all walks of life to come along and find out about the problems Hen Harriers and our other wildlife is facing. Alongside speeches from Chris Packham and Chris Corrigan, the RSPB’s England Director, there’ll be displays from Dorset Police and all sorts of other activities, including for young people.”