Rare birds at risk in moorland arson

     Rare birds at risk in moorland arson

14 May 2008

published by www.tamesideadvertiser.co.uk 

UK — An arson attack on moors in Stalybridge may have wiped out hundreds of nesting birds.

The fire, which started just after 4pm on Sunday, destroyed around a square mile of moorland above Swineshaw Reservoir in Stalybridge.

It is feared many birds – some rare species – could have perished in the fire including short-eared owls, merlin, grouse as well as animals such as mountain hares.

More than 40 firefighters spent six hours battling the blaze on land owned by the Enville Estate.

Fiona Draisey, a ranger in the Peak District National Park, said: “It’s decimated the area completely. The worst thing is that it’s bird nesting time. We have already found some eggs that the fire had destroyed and undoubtedly it will have killed some birds and other animals too, especially the younger ones like leverets (baby hares). It’s also about the environment. The peat absorbs carbon but if it’s not burnt at the proper time, ie when it’s wet, it releases carbon into the atmosphere. When people set fire to the moors not only are they destroying the wildlife and landscape for years to come but they are also affecting climate change.”

The attack is the latest in a spate of fires over the last few years that have destroyed hundreds of acres of precious heather moorland in the area.

Police are appealing for information about three children – two boys and a girl – who were seen trying to start a fire in the area at that time. Anyone who saw them or knows who they are is asked to call 8725050.

“I think they just like to cause a bit of mischief but they don’t realise the consequences” said Fiona. “I would also urge anyone, if they see any fires on the moors at all, to call 999 immediately. The sooner we can get there, the less damage will be caused.”

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