White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction to South-east Wales and the Severn Estuary: Progress Update
In May 2022, Vp sponsored the White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction Programme. The programme, which is progressing well and to schedule, is part of Eagle Reintroduction Wales (ERW), a partnership between Durrell Widlife and Gwent Wildlife Trust (GWT). ERW have now also brought on the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) on board as a partnership to help them with their mission to restore these birds back to South-east Wales and the Severn Estuary.
As part of local feasibility assessments, ERW launched their release site selection work with local landowners in search for a suitable release site for young White-tailed Eagles. This work was funded by the Monmouthshire Rural Development Programme (2021). Over 60+ sites were assessed across Gwent, the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean. A final site has now been selected and an official ask has been submitted to the appropriate landowner, which are highly supportive of the project. The location of the release site will be omitted from the public over the course of the programme.
Alongside release site selection work, local public and stakeholder engagement has been the front-foot of our work. A total of 28 stakeholder workshops have been provided to local eNGO’s and landowners and 8 community talks given by Dr. Sophie-Lee Williams, a number of these facilitated by Gwent Wildlife Trust. Recordings of these two talks can be viewed on GWT YouTube channel here.
The community perception and attitudes of local communities at the talks has been overwhelming positive of the project.
Articles about our local efforts in South-east Wales have also featured in our Wild About Gwent members magazine with one in our Autumn 2022 Edition and another to appear in our Spring 2023 Edition.
Further stakeholder mapping has taken place to outreach to key interest groups like bird watching, farming, game-keeping and fishing. Outreach to these stakeholders will launch post-release site confirmation. A public opinion survey has been prepared ready to launch to assess local (Severn Estuary) and national (Wales) community attitudes and perceptions towards White-tailed Eagles and reintroductions. A list of country and agricultural shows have also been drawn together to maximise public and stakeholder outreach this summer (2023).
Feasibility research is still ongoing, building on the 6+ years of research that Sophie-Lee had already undertaken. Habitat Regulatory Assessments and Social Assessments are left to complete, while project practicalities are still being discussed with particular consideration to whether the release strategy will involve live young (tried and tested approach) or imported eggs (a more novel approach, but potentially better).
The engagement and further research is building up to the programmed aim of a licence application in Summer 2023.
The current predicted time-line is as follows:
- Licence application Autumn 2023
- Hope to receive permission during 2024 (application can take 12 months to process).
- If everything goes to plan and permissions are in place, a reintroduction could potentially commence in Summer 2025.
A number of GWT staff will be participating in a week long Conservation Standards Planning Workshop alongside Durrell and The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust in May to continue to contribute knowledge and plan the conservation programme to restore White-tailed Eagles back to South-east Wales and the Severn Estuary.
Author: Andy Karran, Evidence Manager (Gwent Wildlife Trust)
Header image credit: Barry Carter