The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has been rocked by a furious row over its controversial culling of crows and foxes on its reserves. Outraged members took to social media to say they are resigning over the killings, which are intended to protect the eggs of ground-nesting birds such as curlews.
Those complaining say they did not join the charity for it to kill wildlife. One RSPB warden waded into the row on Twitter, branding those complaining ‘knuckleheads’ and boasting the charity was so wealthy it did not need their membership fees.
Killing crows is particularly emotive as a type of snare called a ‘Larsen trap’ is used.
This involves placing a live crow in a cage to act as a decoy. When another bird is drawn to the cage, it falls through a false floor into a compartment to await its fate.
The device was invented in Denmark, but is now banned there for being inhumane.
In 2016/2017 the RSPB killed 661 crows to ‘protect ground-nesting birds’ at 15 of its sites, up from 475 in 2015/16.
It also killed 414 foxes for the same reason, up from 390. Other birds and animals killed by the RSPB included 11 gulls to protect terns, and 432 red deer to ‘restore woodland and heathland’.
Though some have expressed support for the measures, dozens of members have objected to the culls.
Elaine Mariani said: ‘Larsen traps and slaughter of other animals to protect one species are not what I signed up for.’
Another, Christine Stewart, wrote: ‘Membership cancelled. It’s not a few birds that have been culled, it’s hundreds of foxes and other wildlife too.’
Toby Collett, a RSPB warden at the Frampton Marsh reserve in Lincolnshire, wrote: ‘Quite a few knuckleheads and Nimbys running their mouths off about … evidence-based conservation management.
‘It’s lucky the RSPB is so flush with £££ and influence and UK wildlife is doing so well that we don’t need every single member to support the work we do.’He retracted the tweet at 4.05am the next day and apologised.
The RSPB had an income of around £140million last year and more than one million members, making it the largest conservation charity in Europe.A spokesman said: ‘The individual involved spoke out of turn … The views expressed in the tweet are not those of the RSPB.’
In a blog post the charity’s head of global conservation, Martin Harper, described the ‘dilemma’ of killing predators to protect endangered species and said there were no non-lethal options available.
Ian Gregory of campaign group You Forgot The Birds, which supports killing or trapping predators to protect birds, said: ‘Those who oppose this are not knuckleheads but well-meaning people with different priorities.
‘They find it hard to accept that the RSPB and gamekeepers choose to kill some animals in order to save the lives of many others. But tough choices cannot be avoided.’
This article was first published by The Daily Mail on 09 Aug 2018.
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