29th July 2013
In a shocking development in the ongoing Fight for Flight campaign, CAPS can now reveal that the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), an organisation which describes itself as “working globally to safeguard and improve wetlands for wildlife and people” has been shooting wild wetland birds dead; allegedly in order to prevent interference with its collection of captive exotic birds. This comes just months after CAPS revealed that the vast majority of captive birds held at WWT centres had been permanently, and illegally, maimed using the process of pinioning – the partial amputation of one wing which renders birds permanently flightless. A CAPS spokesperson has described the new discovery as “another appalling betrayal of both the animals and the public”.
It is illegal in the UK to interfere with wild birds under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 but exceptions can be made if licences have been granted. These licences might allow shooting, taking of eggs or destroying of nests, amongst other things. A whistleblower tipped-off CAPS researchers that the WWT had a number of licences to kill birds and suggested that the issue should be investigated.
Following the release of the relevant documents by Natural England to CAPS under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in the last few days, it was learned that, since February 2012, the WWT had been licensed to kill over 600 birds, including mallards, moorhens, coots, geese and gulls; animals which would naturally make their homes in the reserves which the WWT run.
Numbers of birds killed by the conservation charity may far exceed that figure given that the London Wetlands Centre had been given a licence to kill an apparently unlimited number of Canada geese. In addition, the licences allow for the destruction of over 6,500 eggs belonging to species deemed as problematic.
According to documentation, the reasons for allowing the licences to be granted vary but appear to focus predominantly on protecting the “rare” bird species, such as flamingos, in the WWT’s captive collection from the wild birds which allegedly steal their eggs. But, in the case of the Washington Wetlands Centre, for example, not one of the species of bird described as “rare” in official documentation is, in fact, threatened in the wild. Indeed, the gulls which the charity is licensed to kill at the Washington centre are of the same IUCN conservation status as most of the bird species that will purportedly benefit from their deaths.
A concerning passage from a report discussing an application from the Arundel Wetlands Centre suggested that birds such as mallard ducks are simply too common to be seen at the reserves, despite the fact that they would naturally make their home there. The passage states “large populations of mallards detract from Arundel Wetland Centre’s reputation as a high quality manager of captive birds”.
Ironically, one of the featured species on a series of greetings cards which the WWT sell to raise funds is the mallard and the focus of one of the WWT’s education workshops, entitled “Close Encounters”, uses a family of mallards as the primary characters to teach children about wetland conservation. A CAPS spokesperson said “to be killing these birds in their hundreds and then using their species to promote and raise funds for the work of the charity is disingenuous, to say the least”
CAPS Director, Liz Tyson, said:
“The situation beggars belief. It was bad enough when we discovered that the WWT was deliberately amputating the wings of birds that do not belong, or choose to be here, in the UK in order to hold them captive. To now discover that birds that are simply going about their daily lives in their natural habitat are being shot dead in their hundreds in order to prevent them from interfering with those birds that have been so cruelly maimed is horrifying.
“All of this comes back to our original call. This situation has been caused by the refusal of the zoo industry to stop mutilating birds to hold them captive. If these exotic birds were not here in the UK, the wild birds would be safe from harm. That the practice of pinioning is not only responsible for the denial of flight to the thousands of birds but also for the deaths of hundreds of others only strengthens our resolve to see the practice abolished altogether”.
The CAPS Fight for Flight campaign has seen support from experts, celebrities and MPs. A poll run by national newspaper, The Sunday Express, showed 98% of the public were opposed to the practice and wanted to see it banned.
Ms Tyson added:
“Seeing birds such as mallards, coots and moorhens in local ponds are often some of our very first experiences of wildlife as children. That an organisation that purports to be concerned with “encouraging the public to care about the natural world” are killing these birds brings the organisation’s integrity into serious question”.
 The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the best-known worldwide conservation status listing and ranking system.
Natural England is responsible for the grant of licences of this nature to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. Part of the licence review process includes assessing the reaction of the public to the measures taken following the grant of the licence.
It is vital that we let Natural England know that killing wildlife in order to allow zoos to continue to hold mutilated animals captive is unacceptable. Please contact them today to request that no further licences are granted to the WWT to kill wildlife on their sites.
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Perhaps you have a toy duck that you love or you have photographs of ducks at your local pond or wildlife reserve. If you have a special duck in your life, please join the “Don’t Shoot” media trend today.
We are asking supporters on social media platforms to change their profile picture to their favourite duck and add the “Don’t Shoot” twibbon to their profile. It takes a few moment and is a lighthearted and easy way to raise vital awareness of this important issue.
Step one: Change your profile picture on Facebook or Twitter to a duck (real or imaginary)
Step two: Download the “Don’t Shoot” Twibbon to overlay your profile picture by clicking HERE
Step three: Share the campaign to raise awareness of the Fight for Flight!NB: Please be aware that copyright may apply to some images.
The most effective way to end the suffering of both captive and wild birds at the hands of UK zoos is to work to see an end to the cruel practice of pinioning altogether. If you have not yet learned about the ongoing Fight for Flight campaign, please do so now by visiting the main campaign page or READ the full report, released in March 2013.
If you are already aware of the campaign and agree that no animal should have a limb amputated simply so zoo visitors can get close to them, please take one or more of the actions below. Please do not delay. Together we can end this cruelty.
SIGN the petition
COMPLETE the short 2 minute survey to share your views on pinioning. This data will be vital in the campaign.
GET INVOLVED in peaceful demonstrations
Got a zoo near you? Get in touch with us to receive free campaigning literature to use on information stalls or demonstrations. We can help you organise your demo – just let us know if you need advice or help.
CONTACT your local zoo to find out if they pinion birds
Pinioning is widespread but rarely talked about by the zoo industry. Get in touch with your local zoo to find out if they pinion birds. Ask them how many birds are subjected to this practice and let us know what you find out. A full list of zoos in England can be found here.
BOYCOTT nature reserves, parks or other outdoor centres that hold captive wildlife
Some zoos promote themselves as nature reserves or other types of outdoor centre. If you are unsure whether a reserve or centre that you would like to visit holds captive animals, call ahead and find out. Let them know why you won’t be visiting if they do hold captive wildlife.