Return of Britain's native species
8th June, 2009
The first great bustards born in the wild in the UK since 1832 hatched last week. The reintroduction of this and many other species is invigorating the countryside, but eradicating foreign invaders - animals and plants - is equally important
It has been a fine week for David Walters. After 10 years' work, and the investment of more than £100,000 of his own cash, his great bustard project reaped rich dividends last Sunday. Two of the birds that he had reintroduced from Russia to Britain were found to have hatched chicks. "They are the first British bustards to be born in 177 years," he announced proudly last week.
The bustard project is remarkable for the efforts of Walters, a former Wiltshire policeman. It is also striking because it is one of several recent species reintroductions that have been achieved by ecologists trying to reinvigorate the nation's biodiversity. Other successes include the red kite, the white-tailed eagle and the beaver.
Now follow-up plans are being prepared for the short-haired bumblebee, the hen harrier and the corncrake. However, none is likely to match Walter's bustard reintroductions on Salisbury Plain for the commitment of its organiser.
"People spend huge sums of money on holidays to the Galápagos or Tanzania to see exotic animals," said Walters. "But a great bustard, apart from having a smashing name, is an extraordinary bird. It has an 8ft wingspan and looks like a crane on steroids. And when the...
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