BASC’s conservation charity delivers wildfowl grant

THE Wildlife Habitat Charitable Trust (WHCT) has donated 30,000 euros to a conservation project to help wigeon.

Wigeon are among the best known ducks in North West Europe, with the male’s characteristic whistle well known by wildfowlers and bird watchers. They visit Britain in the autumn before returning to breeding grounds in the spring.

But their numbers have reduced due to a loss of key wetland staging-grounds in Belarus and Lithuania during the last ten years, which has diminished their ability to rest and refuel.

Around 30,000 wigeon have been recorded at a crucial site on the Nemunas River Delta between Lithuania and Russia and 150,000 on the Pripyat River floodplain in southern Belarus. But the WHCT hope that improving these sites will increase breeding rates.

The grant will fund mapping of the sites and improve habitats by cutting back bushes and restoring grazing to ensure wigeon have access to nutritionally-essential grasses and herbs. The money will also be used to raise awareness amongst local farmers of the importance of these sites and the birds they support.

The WHCT is the grant-giving arm of conservation charity the Wildlife Habitat Trust (WHT), which was set up by BASC and the request of members to provide funds for shooting and conservation.

During the last eight years, the WHCT has distributed over £60,000 to projects in Lithuania, Russia and Belarus which benefit UK-bound wildfowl.

Tim Russell, BASC’s director of conservation and secretary to the WHT, said: “Migratory wildfowl are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and loss of habitat.

“The money the WHCT has spent on flyway conservation projects is important not only to people that shoot, but also to people that just like looking at birds. These projects show that shooters really do care about conservation.”

This project was recognised as a good example of its kind by the chairman and delegates of the recent meeting of the African Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), held in Bonn, Germany.

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