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Vet Rec. 2011 Sep 17;169(12):311. doi: 10.1136/vr.d4600. Epub 2011 Aug 16.

Long-term health effects of harness-mounted radio transmitters in red kites (Milvus milvus) in England.

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  • 1Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, UK.


In 1989, the Nature Conservancy Council and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds commenced reintroduction of the red kite (Milvus milvus) according to International Union for Conservation of Nature criteria. Following 22 years of intensive effort, the red kite reintroduction programme has been a success with an estimated 1000 pairs now breeding in England. Post-release health surveillance is ongoing and has been achieved through radio-tracking, monitoring breeding at nest sites and pathological examinations of any red kites found dead. Tail-mounted radio transmitters were fitted from 1989 with harness-mounted radio transmitters being preferentially used since 2000. Since 2000, 180 individuals have been recovered for postmortem examination. Eighteen of these birds had previously had a harness-mounted radio transmitter fitted and four of these (22 per cent) had moderate to severe lesions associated with the presence of the harness and radio transmitter including chronic necrogranulomatous inflammation, deep muscular exposure and distorted muscular conformation. Failure to breed was also reported in two of these individuals over the preceding year(s), although it is not known whether the presence of the harness contributed to this failure. Duration of deployment may have been a significant factor in the formation of these lesions as those with lesions (n=4) had a statistically significant (P=0.009) longer duration of deployment compared to those without lesions (n=14). No lesions were reported in those red kites fitted with tail-transmitters.

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