Animalcouriers is very proud to be involved in a conservation project to fly red kite chicks from England to Spain.
A project that started 30 years ago
It’s a wonderful and extraordinary story that started more than 30 years ago. At that time, young red kites were brought from thriving populations in Spain to England, to boost the British numbers which had declined to just 42 breeding pairs.
That project was so successful — the most successful raptor restoration project in Europe — that there are now more than 6,000 breeding pairs in Britain. So now that Spanish numbers have dwindled dramatically, there are enough English chicks that some can be relocated to Spain, where protection for these birds has been increased with tough measures like prison sentences for illegal poisoning.
30 chicks a year for 3 years
30 birds are being taken to Spain this summer and in 2023 and 2024 in a project funded by the EU’s LIFE programme. The project is supported in Britain by organisations including the RSPB and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation; while the reintroduction partners in Spain include Acción por el Mundo Salvaje.
All the red kite chicks are individually ringed and, as a protected species, have CITES export certificates. The first flight with 15 of the chicks aboard left for Madrid a fortnight ago; the second flight with the remaining 15 took off this morning.
As well as providing the flight boxes, Animalcouriers organised the birds’ clearances. This involved courier Helen managing a raft of paperwork and being at Heathrow airport to get the birds checked in with BA. Courier Simon handled the customs side of things, while courier Mike, our air freight manager, brought his years of experience at the RSPCA to the table. The whole Animalcouriers team were able to provide specialist support in animal transport that complemented the knowledge and expertise of the RSPB and the other project partners.
Delays in the clearances process meant that today’s chicks missed their original flight and had to wait 5 hours for the next one. The worry for courier Mike and the RSPB team was making sure the chicks didn’t go hungry, as the new flight was due to take off between feeds. Fortunately, Heathrow’s animal handling staff were able to supply liver slices to satisfy the chicks’ appetites!
Learn more about the red kite relocation
It’s such a great story that there’s plenty of media coverage, including in The Guardian and on the BBC website. You can find out more about the project partners, the meticulous chick selection process, and how the young birds are prepared for release in their new environment.
We’ve helped relocate raptors before
It’s not the first time Animalcouriers has been involved in raptor relocation. You may remember we helped with a similar three-year project (2013–2015) to relocate osprey chicks from Scotland to Spain and Switzerland.