3 October 2009
Earlier this week, Natural England announced changes to the licensing situation, which will be implemented from 1 January 2010, regarding the control of monk and ring-necked parakeets. Some media reports have indicated that Natural England is calling for the eradication of these species. We are not.
Other reports have suggested that because of the licensing changes, both species are now classed as pests and can be freely removed by members of the public.
This assertion is completely inaccurate and it is important to emphasise that the licensing changes do not affect the legal protection for either of these species. It remains illegal for anyone to kill or interfere with monk and ring-necked parakeets except in exceptional circumstances.
These circumstances are defined in special licences that enable people, on land they own or occupy, to deal with problems where parakeets are:
Causing significant damage to crops
having a significant, negative impact on native wildlife
or raising issues affecting public health and safety
Attempts to control parakeet numbers for other reasons are, almost without exception, unlawful. The changes Natural England announced this week do not involve a relaxation of these basic conditions, but involve a change in the way people apply for licences. Up to now, people have had to apply on an individual basis to obtain licences to control parakeet numbers; now, through a general licence, the permission is automatically available to land owners and occupiers who are directly experiencing problems of the type defined above. The bureaucracy of application is reduced, but the legal protection afforded the birds is unchanged.
Like most birds, monk and ring-necked parakeets sometimes cause problems and the licensing system is a way of tackling those problems in a targeted way. Both species are still afforded a high level of protection under existing wildlife legislation and recent changes to the licensing system do not allow anyone to take indiscriminate action that may harm or disturb them. Organisations and members of the public should be minded that, with very limited exceptions, any attempts to do so are unlawful.
Anyone seeking to control parakeets should ensure that they have read and understand the terms and conditions of the relevant licences that determine the types of action that are allowable. Copies of the current licences and the new general licences that are planned to come into force in January 2010 can be found at http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/regulation/wildlife/default.aspx