Following a state-sponsored eradication programme, there are very few ruddy ducks left in the UK.
Ruddy ducks were brought to the UK in the 1940s and have made this their home. However, reports of this little duck reaching Spain and mating with the rare white-headed duck caused outrage amongst certain bird groups. Their offspring were said to be ‘impure hybrids’, and this sealed their fate.
Calls for a ruddy duck cull began in the political arena, however. It is believed that Spain was feeling under pressure from other EU countries for its lack of action in protecting the Spanish steppes from the ravages of intensive agriculture, the steppes being important for the survival of species such as the black vultures. Spain retaliated to the chiding by demanding action on the ruddy duck, which it claimed was threatening the survival of the now cherished white-headed duck. British conservationists took up the challenge, and the rest – including the £3.3 million of taxpayers’ money, which funded the killing – is history. The reality is that the white-headed duck has been hunted extensively and has lost its natural habitat to human destruction. Yet, rather than remedy the problems, the ruddy has been made the fall guy.
A 1993-4 trial cull found that dipping the ducks’ eggs in paraffin was 100% effective, unlike shooting them, but it was more expensive.
A series of UK government-sponsored ‘trials’ ensued and, even though dipping their eggs in paraffin was found to be 100% effective, unlike shooting, there is now a government commitment to eradication. The last few birds are being hunted down at a cost of £3,000 per bird.
We find this violent eradication programme unacceptable, especially when a humane alternative is available.
It is sadly now too late to save the majority of ruddy ducks in Britain, but, as wildlife lovers, we need to come together to make sure no other ‘non-native’ species suffer this same fate. We must be vocal about our support and challenge those spreading misinformation.
How to help ruddy ducks
- If you see one, don’t tell anyone. Even bird groups will tell the authorities and those birds may be killed.
- Write to the newspapers to let their readers know that the government is spending taxpayers’ money on killing ducks and other wildlife.
- Write to your MP. Tell them that the government should not be wasting money on killing wildlife.