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Statement on bearded vulture in the Peak District

Friday 7 August 2020

Bearded vulture in flight over the Peak District National Park credit Austin MorleySarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park, said: “In a year that was already written into the history books by the unusual and unprecedented, no-one in the Peak District expected our skies to be graced by one of Europe’s most magnificent and rarest birds.

"The arrival of a bearded vulture to the Dark Peak has understandably become a source of wonder and excitement in recent weeks - not only for those who carry a passion for nature, but others who simply wish to marvel at a bird of prey larger than anything ever witnessed in our almost 70 years as a National Park.

"The vulture’s appearance at a time when many of us were taking the first steps back into nature since lockdown has no doubt added to its popularity as a ‘must-see’ for wildlife watchers.

"Such widespread interest also demonstrates the power of birds of prey as a gateway to a wider discovery of our wildlife. Witnessing the return of the osprey, white-tailed eagle and red kite to UK skies has in turn shown the multi-million pound economic contribution these species can make through nature-based tourism.

"These are also flagship species that thrive when we are getting things right in our protected landscapes; whether within our 15 UK national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or across Europe from where our bearded vulture made its headline-grabbing flight.

"We still have some way to go to achieve the same recognition for our native birds of prey in the Peak District, but this recent breeding season has once again shown the green shoots of recovery continue to grow, with species such as peregrine and goshawk in the Dark Peak nesting successfully across multiple locations. Wildlife crime remains a factor in this progress, not only in our Bird of Prey Initiative study area where the bearded vulture has made its temporary home, but elsewhere in the National Park where police and others continue to work on tackling criminality impacting on our raptors.

"Whilst this most recent visitor is unlikely to be a long-term fixture due to our seasonal conditions not matching that of its Alps or Pyrenees home, the bearded vulture offers a glimpse of a future where nature-based tourism is an integral part of our already rich offer for visitors to explore.

"Such significant and specific interest in our National Park does not come without its challenges. Maintaining responsible visitor activity; car parking, accessing land appropriately and leaving the outdoors as we find it are all part of the picture. I would particularly like to thank those who have supported the presence of the bearded vulture whilst keeping the ethos of being ‘Peak District Proud’ at the heart of visitors’ experiences.

"The fact the vulture has appeared confident to remain within a relatively modest area of the Peak District is testament to all those working in the countryside as custodians of our protected landscapes; from the National Trust and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, to local volunteers, landowners, gamekeepers and land managers who have all positively acknowledged the vulture’s ground-breaking presence and supported its wellbeing.

"For those yet to visit us for a chance to witness this remarkable sight, I would urge you to 'know before you go' – understand where you can park safely, plan your trip and route carefully and always have the vulture’s welfare as your utmost priority above a slightly closer view or more engaging photograph. Spending a penny, or a pound in our local communities will also help our Peak District businesses to continue to build their resilience against the effects of Covid-19.

"Whilst the bearded vulture remains a very welcome visitor, as summer turns to autumn our attention will naturally turn to its own welfare in our changeable weather conditions. Although any intervention remains a last resort, conservation experts both locally and from the continent are already exploring how the bird may be returned safely to its home reintroduction area, as all individual bearded vultures remain vital to the scheme.

"This may only take place should the bird become injured or experience health issues and any process to intervene would not be a decision of the National Park Authority but on the advice of conservation experts, and in line with all relevant UK and European legislation."

Photo credit: Austin Morley.


Update: 11 August 2020

Further to reports in some media outlets, the Peak District National Park Authority would like to clarify that at no stage has the Authority suggested that any pro-active relocation of the bearded vulture would be necessary to provide ‘safety’ due to concerns from illegal wildlife crime activity. The above press release refers to the potential influence of changing weather conditions only in respect of impacts on the bird's health. Any intervention in the vulture’s presence would only take place on the advice of conservation experts, and as a result of illness, loss of condition or injury. The decision to do so would also not be made by the Authority.

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