Things looking up for two distinct species - Veterinary Practice
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Things looking up for two distinct species

Our conservation correspondent celebrates an upturn in the plight of buzzards in Britain and tigers elsewhere.

Not a lot on first
sight but there has been good news
this month concerning both species.
There are now more wild buzzards
in the skies around Britain than there
were 10 years ago and,
according to a recent
census, more tigers
living in the wild today
than in 2010.

Certainly when I
was a boy, buzzards
were a rare sight in the
skies over England.
I only remember ever seeing them
when we went on family holidays to
North Wales in the late sixties and early
seventies. Their “mewing” calls in the
hills around the farm cottage we rented
is a fond childhood memory.

Like many birds of prey, buzzards
suffered persecution from the
gamekeepers of shooting estates in
the 19th and early 20th centuries.
They were shot, trapped and poisoned because of the damage they did (both
real and perceived) to game birds such
as pheasant poults. Indeed, by the
early 1900s there were estimated to be
as few as 1,000 breeding pairs in the
whole of the UK, with most of them
con ned to the far west of England,

Wales and Scotland.
From that low point,
numbers slowly started to recover only to
receive another, albeit
temporary setback, in
the fifties and sixties as
a result of myxomatosis
killing an estimated 99% of the rabbit population (a key
prey species for buzzards), and the use
of organochlorine pesticides which
reduced the viability of the eggs of
many raptors.

Since then, numbers have increased
steadily with estimates that now put
the number of breeding pairs in the
UK at 68,000, four times the number
surveyed in 1997. If one adds on the
number of immature and non-breeding birds, there may be around 300,000

Wild tiger numbers too appear to
be on the increase. The most recent
census by the WWF and Global Tiger
Forum puts the current number at
3,890 compared with just 3,200 in the
year 2010.

While they admit that some of this
“increase” may be down to better
surveying techniques and the wider
use of technology such as camera
traps, they have no doubt that the
current trend is upwards. These figures
were presented at a recent meeting in
Delhi involving participants from 13
countries where wild tigers still live. It
is the intention of those taking part to
double wild tiger numbers by the year

Given the opportunity in terms of
sufficient habitat and prey, tigers breed
rapidly and so such an increase is
feasible, providing the political will and financial resources to make it happen
are assured.

India is home to over half the global wild population at an estimated 2,226
tigers. It has achieved an increase in
numbers through the co-operation of
governments, local communities and
conservationists, and in some cases has
initiated the moving of whole villages
away from tiger habitat.

While this trend is encouraging,
when one considers there were an
estimated 100,000 wild tigers in the
year 1900 it is a dismal example of
the destruction that has taken place.
Indeed, three tiger subspecies, notably
the Caspian, Javan and Bali tiger
became extinct during the 20th century
and the South China subspecies is
probably extinct in the wild with only a
few individuals left in captivity.

However, let’s not dwell on the
negatives but instead celebrate the
positive news that for the buzzard
at least, its future in Britain seems

Equally things might also be looking
up for the tiger: probably the best news
for that species in more than a hundred

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