Norfolk trust will help save the turtle dove

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A trust has been set up to save the turtle dove with a new breeding programme - Credit: Turtle Dove Trust

It is a mammoth task that is going to take a lot longer than the 12 days of Christmas and involve far more than two turtle doves, but a group of Norfolk conservationists have set up a new group dedicated to saving this threatened species.

The Turtle Dove Trust aims to spearhead a recovery in the birds' numbers by rearing a stock of them in the county, which can then be released into the wild.

In Britain, numbers have declined by three-quarters since 1976 with the estimated UK population dropping from 125,000 pairs to around 45,000 pairs.

Habitat loss both here and in the birds' African wintering grounds and hunters targeting them on their migration across Europe are believed to be the main causes of their decline.

The new Trust has been set up by Bill Makins, Ed Pope and Chris Knights.

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From left, Chris Knights, Bill Makins and Ed Pope, who have come together to form the Turtle Dove Trust - Credit: Turtle Dove Trust

Mr Makins and his wife Francesca set up the world-renowned Pensthorpe Natural Park near Fakenham, while Mr Pope is known for his ground breaking work in conserving birds and antelope at Watatunga Wildlife Reserve near King's Lynn.

They have been joined by Chris Knights, a former farmer and conservationist who helped to re-establish the stone curlew in East Anglia.

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The Turtle Dove Trust hopes to maintain a flock of captive-bred birds which are able to survive in Britain without needing to migrate.

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Young turtle doves bred by the trust before being released - Credit: Turtle Dove Trust

Mr Makins said:  “I have had a lifelong passion to preserve turtle doves as well as many other iconic species which are suffering in this country, so I was delighted to set up the Turtle Dove Trust with fellow passionate conservationists Chris and Ed.”
 
Mr Knights added: “I have been a farmer all my life and I remember many years ago a field with up to 400 turtle doves on it and these birds have been declining to such an extent that it is now a red letter day when people see one."

Mr Pope said: “We can all perform work together in terms of habitat, conservation and feeding, but in some areas we need to be proactive and push the process forward and reintroduce them where they have become extinct.

"To do this we have captive turtle doves who lay eggs which we foster out to other doves to rear to adulthood before setting them free. In the wild a pair may only lay two eggs a year, but with this process we can get a pair of turtle doves to produce many eggs which in turn will produce a larger number of birds which we can release into the wild.”

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Release pens built by the Turtle Dove Trust - Credit: Turtle Dove Trust

The Turtle Dove Trust has already bred 315 turtle doves, of which 52 have been released back into the wild, with a further 263 being overwintered here.

For more go to turtledovetrust.org.uk/.

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The Turtle Dove Trust hopes to reverse the bird's sharp decline because of habitat loss and shooting - Credit: Turtle Dove Trust


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