Local communities express deep concern over plans to introduce Sea Eagles in East Anglia
[The attached photo in Australia is of a white-bellied sea eagle, a different variety to that being proposed to be released in Norfolk, yet equally strong]
Plans to introduce sea eagles into Norfolk at the Wild Ken Hill Estate have caused 'serious concern' amongst some local communities, particularly amongst farmers and birdwatchers.
East Anglia is widely considered one of the best destinations for birdwatchers in the UK with many red-listed bird species prospering in the region.
The backlash against the plan is a stark reminder that the debate around conservation, predator management and rewilding schemes is far from an issue just associated with the uplands, as some anti-grouse shooting groups would have you believe.
We have seen the consequences of local conservation experience and knowledge of land management being ignored too many times only for predictable irreparably damage to then occur to the environment and local wildlife populations. You just need to think of some recent highly avoidable conservation disasters for examples of this, such as Orkney becoming overrun by stoats which decimated native ground nesting birds after advice to use rigorous management was initially ignored. Or the huge wildfires we have seen on unmanaged moors where controlled burning has not been practiced.
Ten years ago a previous introduction plan to introduce sea eagles was rejected in East Anglia and the latest scheme looks set to go the same way with local residents writing in multiple newspapers in recent days to express their thoughts.
We thought we'd share with you one such letter:
"Still opposed to the sea eagles
The reintroduction of sea eagles is extremely contentious. The basis for such an objection is simple - the sea eagle is top predator and thus there is nothing more ridiculous a proposal than to introduce such birds of prey to the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts when their natural habitat is Scotland.
The sea eagle has a significant scare factor and has been described rather pointedley as a 'flying barn door' such is its destructive capacity. But a fashion for misguided re-wilding by some of the new generation of estate owners has revived the move to introduce the sea eagle. Sadly some of these landowners know little of the devastating effects of the fear of these predatory birds on other species.
Both Norfolk and Suffolk have extensive free-range poultry and pig farms. The sea eagle has been known to scare sows to the extent that they smother their own litters, poultry are direct prey themselves as well as suffering a reduced egg yield due to stress.
Other wildlife suffers too - Norfolk is especially rich in shorebirds and has a wonderful breeding population of terns which is much enjoyed by the public. These birds are very vulnerable to the presence of sea eagles, something that perhaps new estate owners are unaware.
If proper consideration was given then the risks of ill thought through re-wilding would be highlighted and averted. The trouble with an ill-advised reintroduction programme is that they are difficult to wind back irreversible damage having be wrought."
It remains to be seen whether this latest introduction plan goes ahead, however it is a powerful reminder of the need to listen to experience of local communities built up over many years.