Attacked by Vandals

As you may have heard or seen on national radio and TV, we're sad to report the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary was attacked by vandals on Thursday evening last.

Breaking in through one of the perimeter hedges, the perpetrators used bolt cutters and brute force to cut off the security locks of 30 aviaries in an attempt to release the enclosed birds from their habitats. Luckily only a dozen birds flew off, with the remainder choosing to stay put in their familiar surroundings.

Manager Andy Hulme discovered the crime when he arrived for work at 8.30am on Friday, noticing one of the Snowy Owls sitting loose on a grassed area at the centre. A quick investigation revealed the magnitude of the damage, and the discovery of one of the released Eagles attacking a Harris Hawk on our flying ground. which was a distressing sight.

Andy & a policeman inspect the damage

Having separated and re-housed these two, our immediate thought was for the survival of the birds that had been set loose, because with one exception they were hand reared, non native species who would - without the immediate knowledge & experience of fending for themselves - find it difficult to survive in the wild for more than a few days without nourishment. Paradoxically our greatest fear was for one of our tiniest birds, Titch the Burrowing Owl, who as a very small desert-dwelling species would be unable to find a suitable diet even perchance and would also be subject to mobbing or attack by larger birds.

The locks of 30 aviaries were smashed and birds released

The media were soon to pick up on this aspect of the story and led with it as the main aspect of their reporting - "Free to Die" was one newspaper headline, followed by an article castigating the callousness of those who committed the act, and pre-supposing that should the vandals be activists, they were very ignorant ones.

For our part, we think animal rights activists are unlikely to be behind the break-in,
as in our experience they are usually well intentioned, have a considered knowledge of their targets and usually claim responsibility for their actions.  

Rather, we think that this was a case of willful vandalism by those who did not appreciate that they were putting the lives of the birds at risk, and we are just left to
wonder how, when we spend so much of our time caring for injured birds and releasing them back to the wild, as well as erecting a network of nestboxes in the wild to help sustain non-captive populations of endangered species, anyone should single us out for attack.

Nevertheless we are pleased to report that throughout the last couple of days Andy and his team, aided and abetted by a number of volunteers who turned up at the Sanctuary to help, managed to retrieve 11 of the 12 escapees, the majority of who were found roosting in trees in the vicinity. Naturally, there was a whoop of delight when, around 5.30pm on Friday a very bedraggled and desolate Titch was found in a neighbouring copse by Matt, our sharp-eyed head falconer!

Titch was eventually found bedraggled but none the worse for wear...

Through Saturday & Sunday, our hunt went on for the missing bird, whilst the police continue to work with some possibly incriminating evidence they removed from the crime scene, to catch the criminals.

Meanwhile we would like to thank all of you who e-mailed or telephoned your support & commiseration's from all parts of the UK following the broadcast of the news in the afternoon; and also to our loyal workforce and band of volunteers who spent cold, wet & worried days out in the field trying to salvage the situation. You have done a marvellous job.

To the perpetrators, we say this: if you have issues about the work of the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary and its activities and would like to discuss them, please contact us - we will be happy to illustrate and demonstrate (we are sure, to beyond reasonable doubt) that the work we do is valid, and that the destructive action taken by whoever wilfully let loose these birds did nothing the improve their quality of life or chances of survival - in fact, you did exactly the reverse.