We applaud the Portuguese Liga para a Protecção da Natureza (LPN) which has today called for a two-year moratorium on the shooting of Turtle Doves. Tomorrow sees the start of the hunting season but it surely makes no sense whatsoever to continue killing a species that is clearly in serious trouble with a population that continues to decline at an alarming rate. As an example, the British population is reported to have reduced by 90% since the 1960s.
Major changes in farming methods and adverse conditions in their wintering areas in Africa may well be the main causes of the decline in Turtle Doves and competition with Collared Doves could also be a factor. However, the scale of the slaughter of these birds in Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Portugal and elsewhere in Europe cannot be sustainable. And then, outside the European Union, there’s Morocco, Egypt and other countries in North Africa where large numbers are also shot, many of them by ‘tourist’ hunters from Europe!
While resources are being devoted to research and conservation programmes in the UK and elsewhere and there is a long-term Management Plan in place with the objective of halting the species’ decline, it makes very little sense to allow up to an estimated 3 million or more of these birds to be legally killed actually in the EU. In fact, it’s complete madness!
The LPN press release calls for the Portuguese Government to act now to protect the Turtle Dove before it is too late and the population reaches the point of no return. The plight of the Turtle Dove in Europe is unsettlingly similar to that of the Passenger Pigeon in North America, which was also once a common and widespread bird but driven to extinction as a result of hunting pressure and habitat loss. Nineteenth century Americans may have had some sort of excuse in their ignorance of what was happening to the Passenger Pigeon but there can be no such excuse for Europeans if we allow the Turtle Dove to continue its slide to oblivion.