31st March 2016

The South West MEP Ashley Fox is calling on the EU Commission to do more to protect Europe's declining Tuttle Dove population.

The MEP was responding to Malta's decision to allow 5000 of the doves to be shot next month as they pass over the island on their migratory route. Although their initial plans were to allow 11,000 to be hunted.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has put the bird on its red list of animals that are threatened.

Mr Fox, who took up the case after being contacted by many constituents, said, "Experts say Malta's decision to allow the bird to still be hunted will directly lead to its demise."

"Turtle doves are summer visitors to the UK, and were a common sight in the South West. Their distinctive, gentle, purring song used to be a characteristic sound of summer. Sadly, it is now very rare to hear their calls."

According to the nature union (IUCN), the bird's population size in Europe is estimated to be decreasing at a rate of 30% to 49% every three generations. Other studies have shown that in the UK specifically, the population has decreased 93% since 1970, and scientists have warned that turtle doves may be lost as a UK breeding bird by 2021.

In October, Mr Fox joined over 90 MEPs from 23 countries calling for urgent interim measures to help protect the bird.

A year ago Maltese citizens were asked in a referendum of they wished to continue spring hunting. The result was narrowly in favour of retaining the spring hunt, with 50.4% voting for the existing law to remain in place.

Mr Fox added, "It is illegal to shoot birds in the spring on their way home to nest. The law must be upheld. There is a will among MEPs for action and if Malta are not prepared to do what is needed then the EU Commission must be quick and robust."

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