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WINNERS 2017

Jemima Parry-Jones

As the daughter of world-renowned falconer Phillip Glasier, Jemima grew up with birds of prey and learned how to handle and communicate with them from an early age.

jemima1Aged 17, she helped her father set up the International Centre for Birds of Prey in Gloucestershire, the UK's first specialist collection of birds of prey, which she still runs 50 years later.

Following in her father's footsteps, Jemima is now Britain's leading authority on husbandry, welfare and conservation breeding of birds of prey.

The centre, meanwhile, now leads in the world in the number of raptor species bred in captivity, with more than 250 species including eagle owls, kites, buzzards and falcons and hawks of all types.

It also educates thousands of people every year about birds of prey and their value in the world, works on the rehabilitation of birds and shares its raptor knowledge and experience with conservation projects worldwide.

In 1999 scientists in India asked Jemima for help after the country's vulture population began mysteriously dying out.

Five years later, the cause was identified as an anti-inflammatory drug which had been given to 2.5 million cows in the country.

Over two decades more than 40 million vultures had died after eating the animals' carcasses, leading to five species of vulture in the country being listed as critically endangered.

Jemima devised a recovery programme, investigated safer drugs and designed breeding programmes in India and Nepal to help boost numbers and save the birds from extinction. She also trained local staff caring for sick vultures, organised artificial incubation and rearing facilities and taught them how to hatch and rear young.

The teams are now breeding 60 vultures a year and a release programme has just started in Nepal.

Her work has meant that the decline of the vultures has slowed, and even stablised in some parts of the two countries.

Jemima, 68, said: "We have had vultures at the centre for a long time, and over the years have developed a lot of expertise on the birds, so when the alarm was first raised we were asked to help.

"The vultures were declining at a horrific rate. We designed a system to look at why they were dying out, and when it was discovered, worked with spent a lot of time looking at which anti-inflammatory drugs could be used which would be safe for vultures.

"We identified one, and we're now doing tests to try to find another drug to give vets a second choice."

Jemima is now also working to stem the decline of vulture populations in African countries.

She said: "The problem there is very different, with many deaths because of a tribal custom to kill them.

 

"Many are also being killed by elephant poachers. Poachers don't want vultures circling the corpse to alert gamekeepers to where they are, so they deliberately poison them."

In South Africa, where many vultures are electrocuted after flying into electricity cables, Jemima is working with Escom, the main provider of electricity, to try to put flappers on overhead lines to make them visible for the birds.

Jemima said that she feels privileged to be able to work with birds of prey and help others to understand and protect them.

She said: "I'm fairly passionate about animals in general, but birds of prey have been my life since before I can remember.

"I love being able to share this passion with others and pass on the knowledge and expertise that the birds have given us."

Jemima, who received an MBE from the Queen for services to bird conservation, said that winning an Animal Heroes award is "amazing".

She said: "I'm not the sort of person who would be thinking I'd get an award, this is everyday life that I'm just getting on with. But to have it recognised by other people is very special, and most of all helps highlight the work we are doing and why it's so important."