Sunday, January 7, 2007

The rarity of the Chough - Henry VIII has a lot to answer for

Doc Martin on ITV on Christmas Day featured the humble Chough, Cornwall's symbol (left). At the end of the story, a couple of Choughs appeared to be blown sky-high by a sack full of explosives. Fortunately, for those of a sensitive disposition, the end credits stated:

"No choughs were harmed during the making of Doc Martin"

The Chough, of course, struggles to survive. But I learn today that Henry VIII has a lot to answer for, with regard to the Chough. Amelia Hill in the Observer reports that "Tudors drove wildlife to the brink":

Millions of birds and animals were slaughtered in England and Wales under a Tudor law which is now being blamed for bringing many native species close to extinction.

...The Preservation of Grain Act, passed in 1532 by Henry VIII and strengthened by Elizabeth I in 1566, made it compulsory for every man, woman and child to kill as many creatures as possible that appeared on an official list of 'vermin'.
It is a classic example of a law going somewhat awry in its execution:

'Animals like the wild cat, pine marten and hedgehog as well as the chough, woodpecker, shag and kingfisher were on the list, although many were entirely benign,' said Lovegrove. 'Others on the list were actually beneficial to agriculture by preying on genuine agricultural pests.'

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