TV NATURALIST Chris Packham’s campaigning wildlife charity has forced the government to review how game birds are released near protected sites like the New Forest.
Defra responded on Wednesday to Wild Justice’s threat of legal action with a promise to look again at the impact of what was claimed to be more than 50 million pheasants and partridges put out in the UK every year.
Game shooting in the New Forest, where Mr Packham has a home near Ashurst, takes place on the Cadland Estate, near Fawley, and there have also been shoots at Exbury.
Wild Justice says the impact of such “non-native” species should be studied as a legal requirement under the EU Habitats Directive. Concerns include their effect on local ecology and carrying ticks which can pass Lyme disease to humans.
In its public response, Defra said management of the birds’ release near Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation – which cover thousands of hectares in the New Forest – would be reviewed.
A Defra spokesperson said: “This will not result in any immediate changes for owners or occupiers of land.
“The legislative regime surrounding gamebird releases will remain unchanged in the immediate term and there will be no impact on the industry. The industry will be kept informed of progress with the review in due course.”
The department’s response came on the day when Wild Justice had warned it would issue legal proceedings.
Last week as the clock ticked down, Wild Justice said on its website: “As you can see, they are either in some disarray or are simply mucking us about.”
When the announcement was made, Mr Packham’s group tweeted: “Defra concedes our challenge on non-native gamebirds and will consult on need for assessment of impacts.”
As reported in the A&T, Mr Packham received death threats in April after Wild Justice used the threat of legal action to force Defra into overnight changes to the general licence for killing “pest” birds, such as crows and pigeons.
Cadland Estate’s website says partridge shooting is carried out in September and October, with mainly pheasants in November.