Birdwatch News Archive
A major cause of Turtle Dove's rapid decline in Britain is legal and illegal shooting along its migration route, which passes over Morocco. Photo: Ulrich Prokop commons.wikimedia.org
Sporting agency offers shooters chance to kill Turtle Doves
Posted on: 25 Aug 2012
British-based company Davis and Bowring is offering hunters holidays in Morocco to kill Turtle Dove, a Red-listed species in Britain in rapid decline partly because of hunting pressures.
In the brochure, entitled Davis and Bowring's Guide to Moroccan Dove Shooting Taroudant, the company offers a four-day package between mid-June and mid-August for a quoted approximate fee of €3,200 per gun, excluding air fares, hotel accommodation and cartridges. The hunting teams operate with a minimum of five guns up to maximum of eight, and expect that more than one party will be shooting simultaneously.
The company claims that the area of Taroudant, an hour east of Agadir, is regarded as the best region in which to shoot Turtle Dove, and has apparently been arranging shoots in the region for more than 45 years, underlining the fact that not all depredations on endangered migrants' populations are due to uninformed local shooting.
Turtle Dove has suffered a catastrophic long-term decline of 90 per cent in Britain since 1967, and is widely predicted to become extinct in the country, though it is widespread and numerous worldwide, and has only suffered a less precipitous but still worrying fall in numbers of 62 per cent in Europe. Within the United Kingdom, it is 'red-listed', meaning that its reduction in numbers has been rapid enough to seriously threaten its status as a British breeding bird. The decline is blamed on the intensification of agriculture at home and in Africa, where the species winters, and the prevalence of unmonitored or illegal shooting along much of its migration route to and from Britain.
The RSPB launched Operation Turtle Dove in May this year to try and reverse the species' decline, though clearly these efforts will be substantially undermined if British companies encourage the hunting of the species anywhere. When Birdwatch accessed their website on 22 August, Davis and Bowring claimed that "numbers shot are carefully controlled to maintain a healthy wild population".
While illegal in the EU, under Moroccan law shooting is permissible over the period of Friday to Monday, says the company's brochure. Temporary gun import is arranged by their contact at Agadir airport, and all the paying guest has to do is "shoot, eat, drink, sunbathe, relax and sleep".
Turtle Doves "are truly wild birds which, although not nearly as numerous as their South American cousins, offer the discerning sportsman a far more testing quarry", the literature continues. It claims a bag of 35 birds per 250 cartridges is "not uncommon". The trips employ local children as 'bird boys' for the shoot, encouraging child labour; David and Bowring state that up to 50 children will "literally beg the guide to be employed for the morning flight"; the children’s age range is not given. It also warns shooters that other "children lurk behind every tree and bush" and should not be undertaken by inexperienced hunters, and also advise tipping the local police to keep excessive numbers of boys away.
Davis and Bowring let properties and manage estates in many areas of the north of England and Scotland, while the sporting agency offers grouse and Pheasant shooting in Britain as well as game shooting abroad; the website can be visited at www.davis-bowring.co.uk. The company did not respond to Birdwatch's questions, and shortly after being contacted by us and other parties, made the area of the website containing the details of the Turtle Dove shooting trip accessible by password only.
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