Warning by expert panel says up to 400,000 wildfowl a year may suffer lead poisoning
Sun 27 May 2018 08.00 BST
Several rare bird species, including a breed of red-headed duck listed as “vulnerable”, are under threat from lead poisoning linked to shooting, a new report says.
Numbers of common pochard, a duck species at risk of global extinction, have fallen substantially over the past 30 years, a decline partly attributed to the fact that they eat some of the 5,000 tonnes of lead pellets discarded in the countryside by people shooting game, according to the Lead Ammunition Group (LAG).
Other species affected by lead poisoning include the grey partridge, which is also on the RSPB’s “red list” of threatened species, as well as the golden eagle, common buzzard and red kite, the LAG says.
The warning comes in a major new report by the LAG, an expert panel set up by the government in 2010, which says up to 400,000 wildfowl a year may suffer from lead poisoning, causing up to 100,000 deaths. Recent research cited in the report shows that lead can be toxic at lower levels than previously thought.
More than 600,000 people go shooting in the UK each year, part of an industry worth about £2bn. They typically use lead shot to hunt birds, a practice known as wildfowling. The shot scatters when it leaves the gun barrel, and a large proportion falls to the ground. Birds eat the lead shot, mistaking it for the gravel their gizzards need to digest food.