PhD project: Feasibility of introducing the red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) to Kent
Global biodiversity is rapidly declining. According to the World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report, populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles decreased by 58% on average between 1970 and 2012. Reintroductions are increasingly being used to protect rare and threatened species from extinction. This involves releasing an organism to an area within their historical distribution where they are no longer found. Before reintroducing a species, many different risk factors must be considered as part of a feasibility study. There are risks involved for the focal species, their associated communities, and ecosystem functions of source populations and release sites. Reintroduction will also have an impact on humans. If there is a high risk, reintroductions should not go ahead. This study will assess the feasibility of reintroducing the red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhococorax) to Kent.
The chough is a corvid (Family Corvidae) closely related to the crow (Corvus corone), raven (Corvus corax), jackdaw (Corvus monedula) and rook (Corvus frugilegus). It is easily recognised by black plumage, a red downcurved bill and red legs and feet. The chough was once found all over the British Isles. Records show the chough was extirpated from Kent over 150 years ago, but potential habitat remains over large areas of designated sites and farmland. However, it has been restricted to small, isolated populations along the coast as a result of persecution, changes in farming practices and predation. Due to very low rates of successful long-distance dispersal, it is unlikely that the chough will naturally recolonise eastern parts of England. As well as providing a conservation benefit, there is a cultural value to re-establishing a population of chough in Kent because they feature on the Canterbury City Coat of Arms dating back to 1380.
Jack has an undergraduate degree in Zoology from Bangor University and a Master’s degree in Environmental Conservation from the University of Greenwich accredited by the Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management. Prior to starting this research project, he was EU LIFE+ People Engagement Officer for the Gronant Little Tern (Sternula albifrons) colony in north Wales.
Jack Slattery is a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology.
University of Kent, Vice Chancellor's Research Scholarship