Congratulations to Dr Nick Fox who has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. The award is for ‘Services to Falconry and the Conservation of Raptors’. This is the highest award ever given for services to Falconry.
In 1986 the Red Kites in Britain were at their lowest ebb. Only about 25 pairs were left and although each pair laid about three eggs, they seldom reared more than one chick. Dr Fox suggested that the fieldworkers remove all but one of the eggs in each nest and replace them with dummies. He then hatched out the eggs and reared the chicks so that the productivity of each pair doubled. He hatched and returned the first 53 kite chicks and gradually the tide turned, so much so that kites have re-appeared all over Wales and more have been re-introduced to England, Scotland and Ireland.
Dr Fox, through his company International Wildlife Consultants, also runs other conservation projects on falcons, from high Arctic Siberia, down through Asia and eastern Europe. He has worked on Saker Falcons, (a desert species slightly larger than the peregrine) both in the wild and in captivity for over 25 years and his Mongolian Artificial Nest Programme produced 1,929 Saker chicks last year. This project, the largest of its kind in the world, has been recognised as a model for sustainable use of a wildlife resource. Similarly, his work on New Zealand Falcons spans forty years and the species is now stable.
After six years working with UNESCO, the United Arab Emirates and many national falconry groups, Dr Fox was instrumental in pushing through the bid for the Inscription of Falconry on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind on behalf of 11 countries. This was finally successful in Nairobi in 2010 and two further countries have since joined. In support of this, he and his IWC team have organised three International Festivals of Falconry, with the fourth due to be held in December 2014 in Abu Dhabi. The last one was attended by 77 countries. He has also set up and chaired the Falconry Heritage Trust for many years, providing a charity-based archive of falconry and with an Endowment Fund for falconry scholars. He has written three books and made 14 films on bird of prey management techniques.
Dr Fox said ‘It is ironic that so many countries, much less advanced than Britain, are prepared to protect their own cultural heritage, but Britain has not even signed the UNESCO Convention. We protect our heritage sites, but neglect our living heritage.’
He has run the Northumberland Crow Falcons since 1991. This is the only mounted falconry group in the UK and meet two to three times per week during August and September. Enthusiasts come from all over the country, and even from overseas, to see the falcons flying. Crows are a serious head-ache both for sheep farmers and for game keepers and falcons have been used to catch crows for over 300 years.
His current ventures include setting up a charitable country school on his farm in Wales, to provide people with a better understanding of country skills and the need for biodiversity if many of our species are to survive.