A RED kite re-introduction programme in the Lake District has been criticised by an influential group of vets as being a threat to native wildlife.

The Forestry Commission released 30 of the birds from Grizedale Forest last year and they have become established in the local area and elsewhere in the country.

But a report by the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management (VAWM) which represents about 550 vets who specialise in wild animals, describes re-introduction programmes in general as ‘potential man-made threats to biodiversity.’

It says that reintroduced species can become ‘over successful’ and take over habitats from other animals and spread disease.

The report cautions against the ‘vogue’ for re-introducing creatures, such as beavers and sea eagles, that previously died out in Britain arguing such schemes could be an environmental ‘disaster.’ It says animals being present in the country hundreds of years ago was not sufficient justification for reintroducing them to areas which may have vastly changed over the decades.

Dr Lewis Thomas, secretary of the VAWM, said that predators such as the red kite inevitably mean that more wildlife are at risk of being eaten.

“I think it’s inconceivable that birds like the red kite wouldn’t have an impact on the ecology and other bird species,” he said.

“Although they’re said to be carrion eaters, if the carrion runs out they’re not going to just go hungry.

“Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful birds, but they are large predators so they have a large appetite.”

VAWM chairman, and the report’s co-author Dr Tony Mudd, said: “If species are allowed to get out of control and they start to damage a particular type of area and negatively impact on other wildlife.

"It is something that has to be looked at very carefully and, quite frankly, we would support control measures.”

The project at Grizedale is the last planned reintroduction of red kites in England.

Iain Yoxall, wildlife ranger at the Forestry Commission, said the project was carefully researched before the birds were introduced with consultation with farmers, landowners and wildlife experts.

“They belong here and richly enhance the North West’s biodiversity,” he said.

“A great deal of planning went in to this project and all of the details, including potential impacts on existing species, were carefully thought through.

“A special advisory body has been set up to help ensure that the reintroduction of red kites into the area goes to plan without adverse effects to ecology.”

The vets’ reports - Life in the Wild - also supports the campaign for a repeal of the Hunting Act.

Click on the link below to read the full report.