Date: January 29, 2020
Source: University of Exeter
Tougher early lives could help captive-bred game birds develop survival skills for adulthood in the wild, new research suggests.
Captive-bred pheasants and partridges start life in unnatural conditions, in sheds and pens with no adult birds, more densely packed and eating different food than they would in the wild.
They may grow well and avoid disease and predators for the first six to eight weeks, but then they are released into the wild -- and they may be unprepared for this dramatic change in their living conditions.
University of Exeter scientists, working with Dr Francesco Santilli from the Italian Hunting Federation, say the current approach may be cruel while trying to be kind.
They say a "careful balance" is needed between conditions essential to maintain bird welfare in captivity and the welfare of birds once they are released.
More than 110 million game birds -- mostly pheasants and partridges -- are reared and released each year worldwide for recreational hunting.
"We know a vast amount of about the welfare of other captive-bred animals, such as chickens," said Dr Mark Whiteside, of the University of Exeter.
"However, our review of the existing research reveals that we know almost nothing about how captive rearing affects the welfare of game birds after they're released into the wild.