Salamanca will aid flight from extinction

Salamanca may look like an ordinary bird of prey to the average layman but this feathered aristocrat is helping make history.

For its is believed that the 10-month-old red kite - a breed which had become extinct in this country - is the first of its kind to have been bred in captivity in the UK. Now it is hoped Salamanca, who started life at the National Birds of Prey Centre, in Newent, will become an integral part of a breeding system which will see red kites back in the wild in Gloucestershire.

The centre embarked on its red kite breeding programme in 2000 when it took in two birds who were to become Salamanca's father - a Welsh red kite - and mother, a red kite from Spain.

Annie Millar, curator at the centre, explained: "At the moment we only have one pair of breeding birds, which are Salamanca's parents.

"They were brought to us after they were injured by what I can only describe as man's stupidity.

"I believe they were both shot and injured and became flight impaired."

She said Salamanca, is one of four chicks hatched by the two injured birds.

She is currently being used for demonstrations at the centre and is likely to be used for breeding in the future.

"We plan to breed enough so in the future we can release them in the Gloucestershire countryside," Ms Millar added. "We will need to raise at least 12 young to be able to release them into the wild because not all of them will have a 100 chance of survival.

"The whole process could take years."

And Salamanca proved to be a huge hit at a conference in Birmingham this week which attracted thousands of vets from across the country.

Ms Millar explained: "She stole the attention at a press conference on Thursday on the first day of the four-day British Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress.

"The photographers were really keen to get pictures of her."

Salamanca was taken to the conference at the request of Stroud avian expert Neil Forbes, who wanted to use her breeding as an example of the latest developments in treating bird casualties.

But if the public wants to get a glimpse of Salamanca in flight they need to get their skates on.

As The Citizen has reported, the National Birds of Prey Centre will close its doors to the public later this year, on October 31.

The centre will still hold courses and corporate events but it is likely that Salamanca will be one of the 230 birds which will be sent to a new home in America.

However, Ms Millar confirmed at least one pair of red kites will remain at the centre, along with 80 other birds of different species, to ensure the breeding scheme continues.

This buzzard is one of the hundreds of birds viewable at the Birds of Prey Centre this year