Interview with Jemima Parry-Jones about the International Centre for Birds of PreyDate of the interview: 23 October 2009
Jemima Parry-Jones: The International Centre for Birds of Prey is a specialist zoological collection of just two taxa, Falconiformes and Strigiformes. In short we are a collection of raptors, open to the public and trying to achieve the following. The promotion and conservation of Birds of Prey and their Habitats for both their benefit and that of the public, through, in particular but not exclusively: the advancement of public education and understanding in all parts of the world; continuing research into captive breeding; the accepting, treatment and rehabilitation of particularly but not exclusively, wild injured birds of prey; and research into all those aspects of raptor biology yet to be monitored and or understood The Centre is to open to the general public for ten months of the year. Education is ongoing to all visitors as soon as they arrive. The Centre also undertakes more in depth education to specific groups and parties and offers off-site lectures and teaching. The Centre continues its captive breeding aims; to research species; breed from species not previously understood; provide teaching and written information on captive breeding to anyone who requires it; maintain the Collection and provide birds for educational demonstrations. The Centre undertakes and encourages non invasive research with the Collection, working with colleges and universities to provide access to the birds for research projects. The Centre also works with the National Birds of Prey Trust and the National Aviary Pittsburgh and many other groups and facilities to continue to support worldwide field research projects. The Centre undertakes international conservation programmes wherever it can be of use with its specialist knowledge. The Centre accepts and treats injured wild birds of prey on a regular basis. Markus Jais: You are rehabilitating injured and sick birds. What species do you normally get and how many of them can be released back into the wild?
Jemima Parry-Jones: We take in all raptors brought to us, and on occasion go out to collect injured birds, but generally we don’t have the staff to collect. Usually it is liable to be raptors found locally, Common Buzzards, Sparrowhawks, Kestrels, Tawny Owls, Little Owls and the occasional Barn Owl and Peregrine, more rarely Hobby’s. We have had an Osprey and two Red Kites, and on occasion a Goshawk. I would guess that we get about 40% back to the wild. We have two first class vets, both of whom treat the wild birds for us, which makes a huge difference to what we can afford to do. Markus Jais: You are doing a lot of public education. How important is this for the conservation of raptors?
Jemima Parry-Jones: Public education is vital for the conservation of anything in this beautiful and badly treated planet, without it we will never achieve anything. Educating the public in every country to appreciate and be proud of their landscapes and wildlife is crucial if we wish to keep them. We have lost so much already; it is only education that will stop the monster of destruction that we have let loose on the world. Markus Jais: How is education done at the ICBP?
Jemima Parry-Jones: In the tradition of all good zoos, the whole of the International Centre is an educational facility. It is primarily concerned with the conservation of all birds of prey and their habitats in the UK and abroad. To that end, the Centre teaches, by way of example, demonstration and information, all aspects of the conservation, restoration and welfare of raptor populations. In the process, it is expected that more can be learned about the biology of these fascinating creatures than can ever be assimilated from books alone. The education process is intended to target the needs and interests of a number of diverse groups. These can vary from individual day visitors to school and college groups, young people undertaking work experience, specialist groups and those on specific teaching courses. We assist in the practical education of more serious students of Veterinary Science and Animal Management, as well as in the training of Police Wildlife Officers. In addition, all the staff will learn more about the behaviour and breeding of the many species simply through the process of looking after them, although training of younger members is enhanced by working under the direction of those with greater experience. This knowledge is shared with many who never visit, be they other zoo organisations, raptor breeders, or the general public, through books, TV, radio and the internet. Our education programme aims, in that sense, to be truly global.
Verreaux's Eagle, © Linda Wright
AimsAt any one time, the Centre will be catering simultaneously for the interests of different groups. School parties may be mingling with Day Visitors and the opportunities for learning must, as far as possible, meet the needs of all. In addition, our outreach to the wider public involves any strategy for which we have the resources, to enthuse, inform and encourage understanding of the conservation and welfare of raptors. The methods by which this is achieved are, of necessity, diverse.
- For each and every visitor to the Centre to leave with a greater understanding of birds of prey
- For all students on work experience to appreciate not only the birds they work with but the enormous amount of time and effort required when managing birds in captivity
- For those who are going to be working in the medical or scientific fields with raptors to gain valuable experience, understanding for birds of prey.
- To provide where possible written information to be available to all who need it whether or not they visit the Centre
- To constantly be aware that management and staff at the centre always need to keep an open mind and keep learning
- To regularly monitor all teaching methods and the visitors to see that we are achieving our aims.
MethodsWithin the Centre itself:
Flying Demonstration, © Jemima Parry-Jones
Centre Guide Book, © Jemima Parry-Jones
- One and two day photography courses and days
- One day falconry experience days for the completely uninitiated.
- Two Day handling courses for Police Wildlife Liaison Officers, RSPB, RSPCA, Customs CITES officers and AQS staff.
- Three Day Owl courses to teach people enough information to handle and keep owls without damaging the young birds.
- Five Day training courses for those wanting to learn to train birds of their own.
- Three Month training courses for Zoo staff
- Three Month training courses for foreign staff working on conservation projects insitu
Outreach:Visits to schools and colleges: On request, we visit educational establishments to give talks, lectures and flying demonstrations. These are tailored to the needs of the students and the facilities available. They may range in content from the biology and behaviour of birds to the various conservation projects which we support and run, both here and abroad. Flying demonstrations may also be given at other public and outdoor venues such as County Shows.
Jemima Parry-Jones: Although there is without doubt illegal trade in Sakers, there are many other problems that are causing their decline, electrocution, nest-site loss, shooting on migration, poisoning of their food source. It is probably fair to say that the only species affected by illegal trade is the Saker, but steps are being taken in the Middle East by falconers to mitigate this trade and stop the need for it. I have to say that I think the Legal trade in particularly the large raptors such as eagles and vultures is much more of a threat than illegal trade. Although in Africa bush meat and the trade in particularly vulture parts for medicine is of concern. Markus Jais: What could and must be done to control the illegal trade and make sure raptor populations in the wild don't suffer?
Jemima Parry-Jones: I think that this is already being addressed, the illegal trade is not on the increase to my knowledge, as I said it is the change in the CITES European Annexes that I am far more concerned about.
Indian Tawny Eagle, © Linda Wright
Jemima Parry-Jones: Falconers are already working in the raptor conservation field. Almost every captive breeding project has falconers either running it, or working in them. Without doubt all the knowledge of raptor husbandry and medicine has been gained because of and by falconers and falconry. Most of the rehabilitation in the UK is done by falconers or using falconry methods. Many of the birds used in falconry in the UK and most of Europe are captive bred birds, the UK leads the world in the captive breeding field, and has many sustainable populations of raptors used in falconry. Generally I believe that falconers are very aware of the need to behave responsibly and most do so. There will always be a small minority who do not, just as there are corrupt politians, corrupt policemen, teachers who abuse their trust, doctors and nurses who mistreat patiences, but generally we all believe that all these people are responsible. Often those breaking the laws are not falconers but people who think they can sell birds to falconers, usually completely the wrong species. Markus Jais: Are you working together with other zoos and institutions?
Jemima Parry-Jones: Yes where we can and are needed we do so. We would always make ourselves available to any reputable zoo and institution that needed help and advice. Markus Jais: When and where can people visit the ICBP?
Jemima Parry-Jones: We are based in Gloucestershire, just outside a small town called Newent. Maps are better for finding us than satellite navigators which in my opinion are an abomination to mankind and remarkably inaccurate! Plus apparently they kill human brains that used to be able to use a simple map! We are open seven days a week from February 1st to November 30th, there is much information on our website. Markus Jais: On your website, you are looking for volunteers? How can volunteers help the ICBP and what can everyone else do?
Jemima Parry-Jones: The volunteers here are an amazing group of people that in the last year we could not have done without, they come in all weathers work alone or in a group, build, paint, clean, clear, do baths, paths, gardening and any other job there is with no complaints. In return we share the Centre with them and where possible teach them bird handling and allow them to work with the birds once they have proved their dedication and most of them are just wonderful. As to what everyone else can do, for us, help financially is the most crucial thing, we are not stable yet. Or come and add to the volunteer base. Or look to see what you can do to help the planet. If you look on my website at the PowerPoint programme on bottled water that will open your eyes. If everyone stopped using that bloody awful bottled water that costs a fortune, is no better than most tap water (depending on where you are) and is causing the most horrific problems of waste, the world would be a much better place. We are stopping selling any bottled water and all drinks in plastic bottles by the end of this year. Every step towards conserving what we have left is a step in the right direction, just don’t leave it too late Markus Jais: Jemima, thank you very much for the interview