in the back
Talon tales in Snowdonia
Wilder Britain, Issue 1491
LYNX EFFECT: Having failed to reintroduce predatory wild lynx in Northumberland, Dr Paul O’Donoghue now wants to see golden eagles soaring over Snowdonia
THE prospect of golden eagles soaring over Snowdonia next year is the latest rewilding scheme to catch the imagination of environment correspondents and picture desks across the media.

The BBC’s Countryfile Winter Diaries even featured a long interview last month with Dr Paul O’Donoghue, introduced as the head of “Wilder Britain”, who described his plans to reintroduce golden eagles to Wales by 2020.

Eagle-eyed (geddit?) Eye readers will have spotted that this is the very same man who previously headed a bid to reintroduce predatory wild lynx in Northumberland, which the government rejected in December. Its assessment of the Lynx UK Trust scheme was scathing. And no wonder. It included concerns that evidence of the team’s ability to support such a risky, complex scheme was provided in the form of photos of O’Donoghue, er, “holding wild animals” (Eyes passim).

Dr O’Donoghue is also involved in Wildcat Haven, a project flogging souvenir plots of land in a supposed “wildcat reserve” in Scotland. The scheme has caused problems for legitimate conservation charity Scottish Wildcat Action, which last week warned that wildcats were even more endangered than previously thought.

Less transparency, fewer rules
Like both Lynx UK Trust and Wildcat Haven, Wilder Britain is a community interest company (CIC), not a registered charity, meaning there is less transparency in its accounts and fewer rules on how it uses any money raised for the eagle project. Campaigners have asked how much Dr O’Donoghue takes out of these CICs in consultancy fees, after their 2018 accounts showed a total of more than £80,000 paid to either him or his companies.

Once again, Wilder Britain poses a threat to a legitimate reintroduction research project. Eagle Reintroduction Wales (ERW) is led by Cardiff University and involves the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Wildlife Trust Wales.

“Reintroduction programmes in the UK are not an easy or quick process,” says ERW, which began in 2016 and is conducting painstaking environmental and ecological assessments of habitat for golden and white-tailed eagles in Wales. If a population is viable, the next step will be slow and careful consultation and trust-building with sheep farmers, whose lambs could be potential prey.

Shot, poisoned or starved
Wilder Britain’s big publicity push has already sparked opposition to reintroduction. The National Farmers’ Union Cymru wants a proper impact assessment and notes that, despite Dr O’Donoghue’s televised claims to have spent months gaining the backing of landowners, the union has yet to find anyone who was even aware of the project.

To head off any possible confusion, ERW has tweeted: “We have been conducting detailed feasibility studies on restoring Golden and White-tailed eagles in Wales since 2016, we are still at an early stage. The ERW project is not linked to Wilder Britain.”

During the Countryfile interview, Dr O’Donoghue claimed eagle reintroduction in Ireland had not caused problems for farmers. In a Wilder Britain press release, he also claimed that a “very successful ecotourism industry” has developed around the birds. Alas, it hasn’t gone brilliantly for Ireland’s eagles, which were imported annually from Scotland for 15 years, only to be shot, poisoned or starved. The population remains extremely precarious.

More top stories in the latest issue:

Why a senior suit at British engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald suggested asking the Mafia for help on a major project in Italy.

Following the plane crash that killed footballer Emiliano Sala, another air accident was being heard in Manchester crown court, throwing light on the murky world of ‘grey charters’.

As the government frets about excessive executive pay in academy trusts, one high-paying London school simply leaves pay out of its accounts altogether.

A mother-of-two who is seriously ill health failed to score a single disability ‘point’ when Atos assessed her for the personal independence payment benefit.

The bosses of failing NHS services in Shropshire seem to have decided the best way to deal with public concern and criticism is… simply to silence it!

Having opposed fracking near his home, Lord Cowdray puts forward 70 hectares of his woodland on the South Downs as a possible sand quarrying site.

Why not everybody is delighted that national tourist board VisitBritain is investing £500,000 with AirBnB to encourage younger people to travel.

Recommendations to improve the safety of recruits after two violent deaths at Deepcut army barracks were ignored, the inquest into the death of Geoff Gray hears.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1491 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 19th March 2019
Private Eye Issue 1491
In This Issue
MayMay Goes Viral and Encourages Country to Self-Harm… Labour Apologises for Apology for Apologising Too Much Over Anti-Semitism Claims… Meghan to Have Transgender Baby – Royal Exclusive… Rees-Mogg at the Palladium – All the Best Jokes from Britain’s Leading Sit-Down Comedian… ‘You Can Trust Me With Chlorinated Chickens’ Says Fantastic Mr Fox… The Future of Television Is In The Past – BritBox Launch Exclusive... Karl Lagerfeld 1933-2019, as told to Craig Brown

Dear oh dear
The cost of Chris Grayling

Mott MacMafia
Dial M …for Mafia!

Coughing up
The Tories’ latest exotic donors

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19th March 2019
Private Eye Issue 1490