Operation Turtle Dove launched to save species from extinction
One of the most endangered species of bird in the UK, the turtle dove, has received a massive boost from a new partnership project, which aims to save the bird from the brink of extinction.
The project, called Operation Turtle Dove, had launched a competition to name the two birds on their logo, and a six-year-old girl from Sheffield was announced the winner with her suggestions Heart and Hope.
Alice Stavert-Dobson, the winner of the competition, told the RSPB: “I chose ‘Heart’ to represent love and ‘Hope’ because I hope Turtle Doves will still be here in the future.”
“I was really pleased to win the competition and I can’t wait to go and see the turtle doves this summer in Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.”
Turtle doves are in the middle of a long journey back to the UK after spending the winter in sub-Saharan Africa. They tend to land back here around the middle of April.
Tim Nevard, Director of Conservation at the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, said: “We look forward to welcoming Alice to Pensthorpe where she will be able to find out more about the project but also see and hear our Turtle Doves in the Wader Aviary. Depending on when she visits she may even be lucky enough to hear some of the wild birds which traditionally have nested on the estate and benefit from our Conservation Grade farming methods and habitats we maintain.”
These birds are increasingly vulnerable, however, East Anglia tends to be a stronghold for them between April and August. Some of the issues that they face in their wintering grounds include illegal hunting, and changes in land use. However, the RSPB has been working with Birdlife International to help reduce these impacts.
This iconic bird is seriously threatened. Major changes in modern day agricultural practices have been linked to the loss of arable plants in farmlands, which supply the turtle dove with the seeds that they require on their return to the UK.
Alison Gardner from the RSPB said: “It is distressing to learn that we have lost nearly 60 per cent of our turtle doves in the five years to 2010. If this decline continues we could be down to fewer than 1000 pairs by 2020, with complete UK extinction a real possibility.
“The fantastic work of Operation Turtle Dove aims to make a real difference. Project partners are working with farmers to implement a bespoke seed rich mix which will be available to turtle doves on their return in Spring. Our new turtle dove logo names reflect these birds so beautifully and we want to secure their future so children like Alice and her sister Thea will be able to enjoy their gentle ‘purring’ way into their adulthood and beyond.”
Competition winner Alice won Turtle Dove themed chocolate heart made by the Project supporter Chocally. She went on to say: “It was really, really exciting to come home from my holiday because there was a pretty, sparkly surprise prize there for me. I loved the pink Turtle Dove as that is my favourite colour. Me and my little sister thought it was yummy and ate it all up very quickly!”
Picture: Stefan Berndtsson