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Conservationists demand tougher laws for puffins

Conservationists have demanded greater legal protection for puffins on the Channel Island of Alderney, saying that local dog walkers are threatening the species, reports the BBC.

The Alderney Wildlife Trust would like tougher laws to be introduced to protect the 340 puffins that roost on the island each year.

The colourful birds, famous for their triangular eyes and brightly coloured beaks, have suffered from huge losses in their numbers after a tough winter that saw some 16,500 birds die.

The Trust claims that local dog walkers allow their dogs to bother the nests of the puffins, which in turn has a detrimental effect on the puffin population. They would like to see bans on dog walkers using certain beaches during puffin breeding season, and would like laws toughened.

The Alderney Wildlife Trust's manager is Roland Gauvain.

"Anywhere breeding birds are trying to establish, especially where you have dog access near to them, disturbance can put them off their nests or destroy the nests, not intentionally, just the activity itself can cause the damage," he said.

"This year, because they've been so stressed during the winter period, the chances of that happening, we would argue, are massively increased," he added.

The Guernsey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is also supporting the calls for tougher laws to protect the birds.

The BBC quoted their manager Steve Byrne.

"We're always trying to promote responsible dog ownership around wildlife or livestock. That's something we get a lot of calls about. Responsible pet ownership should result in wildlife being left to do its own thing," he said.

The puffin population was decimated this year by storms, which claimed the lives of 32,000 birds according to the BBC, of which 50% were puffins.