Working towards the recovery of a declining quarry species: the grey partridge in the UK
Numbers of a traditional British quarry species, the grey partridge Perdix perdix, have declined by over 90% over the last 50 years and suffered similar declines elsewhere in Europe. Since the 1970s the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has investigated the causes of the UK decline, identified three main reasons for it (loss of nesting habitat, loss of brood-rearing habitat and increased predation) and experimentally tested solutions compatible with modern farming. This has resulted in a grey partridge management package based on scientifically proven recommendations. The challenge has become persuading farmers and land managers to adopt the package, and shooting is often a strong incentive. Central to achieving adoption are demonstration sites showing how appropriate management leads to successful recovery of grey partridge numbers. The first demonstration site was led by GWCT near Royston, Hertfordshire, where within five years grey partridge pair density increased six-fold. At a second landowner-led demonstration site in West Sussex, partridges went from near extinction to densities providing sufficient birds in autumn to reinstate a wild grey partridge shoot. These outcomes are disseminated through the GWCT's Partridge Count Scheme and used to motivate others to undertake partridge management. Those that do so with shooting as an incentive have successfully increased partridge numbers, unlike those that do not shoot. The GWCT recovery program has international resonance, as it offers an example of species conservation that fits in with the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines (CBD 2004).