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World Owl Trust - leading the World in Owl Conservation

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Saturday 20th December, 2014

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The Barn Owl Project Continues - Lend Your Support

Barn Owl in flight Barn Owl in flight

As everybody will be aware there has been much publicity recently about the plight of the British Barn Owl both over the last few decades but highlighted even more after the last two harsh winters. Many conservation groups are now highlighting the dwindling numbers of British barn owls and the battle they are now facing from harsh weather conditions, lack of food supply and loss of potential nesting sites. Whilst it good news that so many people are now recognising the scale of the problem which the World Owl Trust has been highlighting throughout 2010 (see below our press release from November 2010) through our appearances on many television programmes, including Countryfile, and on one day 8 regional and national BBC radio stations we also recognise that the time for talking is now past and that further action is now required to help the situation.

As such we have set out our target to raise at least £5000 in 2011 to construct and place in suitable wild locations 100 Barn Owl Boxes. This will be done by a number of high profile fundraising events this year not only to raise money but to create awareness of the problem and how solutions do not rely simply on charities and conservations undertaking work to help the Barn Owls but that this project will only succeed if large number of the public become enthused to help, to understand the problems and how this work can be undertaken to make a big difference to the survival of one of the UK’s most iconic birds.

The funds cannot be raised without the public’s support and the Barn Owl boxes cannot be erected in a suitable UK wide geographical spread without the World Owl Trust working in close partnership with other conservation organisations and individuals around Britain, so give us your support.

How can you help!! On the 30th May in a marquee in the scenic gardens of Muncaster Castle we are holding a funding concert with the Billy Mitchell Band and the Olly Alcock Band in an event which has been generously sponsored by Stollers Furniture and Cleator Bus, Cumbria (see here for further details). In addition individuals or companies have the opportunity to sponsor a Barn Owl Box in the wild for just £30 each. So the talking is over and we with the help of people all over the UK now want to take action, help us now contact the World Owl Trust on 01229 717393 and speak to Andy, Wulf or Jen to support one of our events or simply make a pledge on our Just Giving site, click here.

An icon of British wildlife and folklore, the Barn Owl, could be on the slippery slope to extinction in most of the UK. This is the stark warning given by Tony Warburton MBE, the Founder and Hon. President of the World Owl Trust based at Muncaster Castle in West Cumbria.

Although there have been some claims that this charismatic species is recovering from a disastrous 150-year long decline; Tony warns that in his opinion Britain’s population of Barn Owls is actually on the brink of collapse.

He says the real truth is being masked by localised successes brought about by the sterling efforts of Barn Owl enthusiasts and organisations to provide nest boxes for the bird.

Tony says “While some battles have undoubtedly been won, the war itself is far from over. “80 years ago there were approximately 12,000 breeding pairs in England and Wales. By 1985 this had dropped by an estimated 69%, but this fall then plummeted even more alarmingly when, between 1995–1997, a computer derived survey produced an estimate of approximately 4,000 pairs”.

“This figure is still being widely quoted as factual despite the survey having taken place 13 -15 years ago. However, the fact is nobody really knows how many actual breeding pairs are left, but if this last survey proves to be accurate, the figures indicate that this iconic bird is virtually at the point of no return unless urgent action is taken”, Tony warns.

“Nobody really knows how many actual breeding pairs are left, but my fear is that this iconic bird is virtually at the point of no return unless urgent action is taken. I have been studying Barn Owls in the British countryside for over 45 years and what I am seeing now bears little or no resemblance to what I saw when I started in 1965”.

Barn Owl - Tythe Barn Owl - Tythe

Tony explains “There has been an on-going decline in traditional rough grassland areas that support the Field Vole populations which form the Barn Owls’ main prey species. This means there are no longer adequate food supplies within easy reach of many nest sites, and because of the continual loss of contiguous territories and the isolation of those which do still exist; there are few viable new areas for young owls to move into once they leave their nests”.

“Many Barn Owls are now trying to survive in what amount to ‘habitat islands’ in a food desert with no connectivity with other pairs. This inevitably leads to inbreeding, a key factor in the ‘slippery slope to extinction’”.

“On any journey by foot, bike, car or train look to see how much uncultivated, ungrazed, unmown rough grassland you can spot. You will be in for a shock because it has virtually all gone! To increase a population of any species, productivity needs to exceed mortality, and with the Barn Owl this aspect is getting worse, not better.”

“Most conservation initiatives for the species to date have been centred on nest box provision to counteract the loss of natural nest sites. The result is that most Barn Owls now nest in man-made boxes rather than natural sites such as hollow trees and old stone buildings.”

“However, restoring good hunting habitat is essential before any nest box scheme should be contemplated, for even a million nest boxes cannot save Barn Owls if there is no food available to them”.

The World Owl Trust is the only charity working on owl conservation worldwide, but its logo is the Barn Owl, the bird whose plight was the main reason for its creation in 1972. Its battle cry is “We help owls where owls need help” so the Trust is determined to do all it can to ensure Britain’s most beautiful owl does not become a real-life ‘ghost of the past’.

In the recently released Warner Brothers film ‘Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole’ ‘Soren’ the Barn Owl hero joins the ‘Guardians’ fight to ensure a future for owls everywhere and this is exactly what the World Owl Trust does too. The Trust is using this blockbuster success to highlight the plight of owls everywhere, but it too needs help in order to succeed in its mission and is actively seeking corporate support and sponsorship along with public involvement to enable it to continue with this vital campaign.

Everyone can join in the Trust’s ‘Save an Owl’ battle. For as little as £1 people can become a ‘Guardian of an Owl’.

To learn more about how you can help and to obtain free information sheets:
E-mail the Trust by clicking here
Or telephone 01229 717393
Or write to:
World Owl Trust
Muncaster Castle
CA18 1RQ


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The World Owl Trust is a member of BIAZA
The World Owl Trust is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The Trust relies on a dedicated membership, visitors, donations and legacies.
The World Owl Trust is a member of EAZA

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