Dr. Nick Fox

Born: Nicholas Christopher Fox.
23 December 1949. Age 68 years.

Nationality: British
Married to Barbro, with two sons, James and Benjamin.

Awards: Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Dr Nick Fox, OBE (born 23 December 1949) is a wildlife biologist, falconer, farmer and writer, living in west Wales, UK. His interests include practical conservation, design, animal welfare and moral biology.

Early Life

Nicholas (‘Nick’) Fox was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, the son of a country parson who was born in 1895. He was raised at Ashmore in Wiltshire and spent his early teenage years at Cragg Vale in West Yorkshire, moving to Cothelstone  in Somerset at fifteen.

Education

He attended The Blue Coat School in Birmingham 1957-63 and St Johns School in Surrey 1963-68. His older sister Margaret and brother David, and younger brother Andrew, also went to boarding schools, so family life was somewhat fragmented although it was a cheerful and kindly home.

He received a BSc Honours degree in Zoology from St Andrews University, Scotland 1968-72, followed by a post-graduate Certificate of Education at Dundee. His PhD was on the Biology of the New Zealand Falcon at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand www.canterbury.ac.nz/ 1974-78.

He became a Registered Farrier in 1982.

Positions held

Founder of the Raptor Association of New Zealand 1975 – 2012. RANZ was designed to bring together scientists, conservationist, falconers and rehabilitators, of which there were then very few in New Zealand, to pool their resources and share knowledge and skills.

Director International Wildlife Consultants Ltd www.falcons.co.uk 1987 – present. IWC evolved out of the raptor breeding programme and expanded its research interests internationally and into a variety of subjects. It usually employs 10-20 staff at any one time and is focused on applied wildlife management. It is based on a busy farm in Carmarthenshire in west Wales.

Member or Vice-Chairman of the Hawk Board 1985-2015. The Hawk Board represents about 25,000 raptor keepers and organisations to the UK Government.

Founder of the Middle East Falcon Research Group 1991 and Consultant Editor for 22 years. MEFRG brings together raptor biologists and falconers operating mainly in the Middle East and Asia and organizes conferences and a biannual publication Falco.

Vice-President of the British Falconers’ Club and Honorary Member of numerous other national falconry clubs.

Master of the Northumberland Crow Falcons 1992 – present, the oldest mounted falconry group in Europe.

Originator and organizer of the first four International Festivals of Falconry, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014, involving 80 nations.  The festivals are a celebration of falconry as part of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, and a contribution towards world peace and understanding.

Founder and Chairman of the Falconry Heritage Trust 2005- present.

Director of a property company, Mickelbo Ltd 2007 – present. Mickelbo provides financial under-pinning to IWC.

Founder and Chairman of the Bevis Trust 2014 – present. The Bevis Trust is aimed at supporting wildlife within the context of sustainable food production farming.

Founder and Chairman of Wingbeat Ltd  2014  – present. Wingbeat produces robotic birds, primarily as prey for trained raptors, but also for pest control. It also organizes welfare-friendly rofalconry events in various countries.

Research

1972-3. Trained and wild-hacked goshawks for the Reintroduction of the European Goshawk Accipiter gentilis Project. The Goshawk is now re-established as a British species after being exterminated in the 19th century by gamekeepers.

1974-1978. PhD entitled the Biology of the New Zealand Falcon Falco novaeseelandiae, in the high country of New Zealand’s South Island. University of Canterbury, Christchurch. The study was the first on this species and considers all aspects of its biology.

1974-1976. A morphometric study of the Australasian Harrier Circus approximans. University of Canterbury.

1984-1985. Predation Ecology of the Mauritius Kestrel Falco punctatus. This study entailed radio-tracking the last wild pairs of Mauritius Kestrels and recording their activities and habitat use. http://www.mauritian-wildlife.org

1986-1993. Restoration of the Red Kite Milvus milvus, hatching and rearing the first 53 kites leading to their restoration in Wales. The UK Red Kite was reduced to about 25 pairs in mid-Wales so Nick proposed to the Kite Group https://welshkitetrust.wales/ to take some eggs from the remaining nests that seldom reared more than one chick and bring them to IWC for incubation and rearing.  When the chicks were fostered back to their original nests, they were found to be almost twice the size of the wild-reared siblings, and it was clear that Welsh kites were under severe food stress. Nick pushed for the kites to be released in new areas outside central Wales and personally delivered the first two kite chicks to Stokenchurch as the initiation of the English restoration programme which then subsequently relied on Spanish kites.

1989 – present. Directed multiple research programmes through International Wildlife Consultants Ltd, primarily on Saker Falcons Falco cherrugPeregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus, Gyrfalcons Falco rusticolus and New Zealand Falcons. These included teams of biologists making surveys, radio and satellite tracking studiesmigration dietary studies, range and habitat use, artificial nest programmes, microchipping programmes, reintroduction programmes, electrocution and genetic studies including analyzing the genomes of the Saker, Peregrine and Gyrfalcons. Countries include Siberia, Khazakhstan, Bulgaria, Kirghizstan, Russia, Mongolia, China, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, UK and New Zealand. The Mongolian artificial nest programme produced up to 2,300 fledged Saker Falcons and a similar number of kestrels and buzzards per year.

Studies also include welfare aspects of killing or capturing wildlife, and wounding rates in shooting Red Foxes Vulpes vulpes, as Scientific Advisor to the All-Party Parliamentary Middle Way Group on Hunting with Dogs. Nick made presentations at the enquiries on hunting, and addressed an audience of 120,000 at the Countryside Rally in Hyde Park, London.

Studies in UK include pioneering techniques for breeding raptors in captivity, including incubation and artificial insemination protocols, and in various behavioural and morphometric studies.

His current research interest looks at the biological roots of morality in many species and searches for underlying principles for how human morality has evolved, and how the gene-centered basis for morality is leading humans into an evolutionary trap. His latest book (in press) is Morality: A Personal Journey.

Falcon Breeding

Nick’s career coincided with the pioneering of captive breeding of birds of prey across the western world. He was the first to breed the New Zealand Falcon in 1977 and still maintains a closed colony of this species in UK, based on six founder birds imported in 1983. Their pedigrees now extend to about 15 generations.

Nick also breeds about 250 large falcons per year, mainly Gyrfalcons, Peregrines, Sakers and their hybrids for export. Clients include the Royal Families of UK, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Falconry

Nick has practiced falconry since childhood, and in many countries and founded the Northumberland Crow Falcons  in 1992. This is a mounted falconry group meeting 2-3 times per week during August and September, hawking Carrion Crows Corvus corone which is a pest on livestock farms in upland Northumberland. It is run on traditional lines following the Old Hawking Club 1863-1926, back to the Confederate Hawks of Great Britain in 1770, and back further still to 670AD where a stone cross at Bewcastle depicts a falconer.

In 2002 Nick was approached by the Abu Dhabi Government to prepare a submission to UNESCO on Falconry Cultural Heritage. This entailed eight years of organizing conferences and meetings in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority  and the International Association for Falconry and Conservation. The submission was successful and in 2010 in Nairobi UNESCO inscribed Falconry on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind  on behalf of 11 countries. Seven more countries have now been added.

In 2005 Nick presented a submission to the Charities Commission and founded the Falconry Heritage Trust, primarily an online archive making falconry cultural material freely available to everyone. He raised a kind £1 million donation from HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed to create a perpetual Endowment Fund for the charity.

In 2014 he created a new company, Wingbeat Ltd, making robotic birds that can be caught in pursuits by falcons. Wingbeat has produced two models: the Robara is a robotic Houbara Chlamydotis undulata the favourite quarry of Arab falconers, and a smaller model that mimics a Crow, Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus, Pheasant Phasianus colchicus, or Duck Anas spp. The raptor models are currently being pioneered for eco-friendly pest control uses at airfields and landfill sites.

Architecture and Design

Nick has designed and built a log cabin, six houses, a research centre, an office building, a factory, a warehouse and numerous breeding facilities and farm buildings. His favourite materials are stone, with turf roofs.

He also designs landscapes and lakes, and crafting items in a variety of materials. He has designed falcon hoods, saddles for horses, robotic animals, built a canoe and a boat and has illustrated three of his own books.

Farming, wildlife and the Bevis Trust www.bevistrust.com

He and his wife Barbro have gradually built up their livestock farm in Wales from seven acres in 1983 to its current 298 acres and planted trees and hedges so that now about 30% is out of agriculture and dedicated to wildlife. He has dug 28 ponds and lakes and since 2014 has established a restoration programme for the Eurasian Beaver Castor fiber, of which three pairs breed on the farm. Nick also manages a 200 acre upland farm in Northumberland which is used primarily for training falcons.

New Zealand

Nick has strong ties with New Zealand and his elder son James is a dairy farmer there. He is a Patron of Wingspan Bird of Prey Trust www.wingspan.co.nz  in Rotorua , and of Picton Dawn Chorus 2016 – present, a conservation group in Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand. His work on falcons in Marlborough  has led to the creation of the Marlborough Falcon Conservation Trust.

Sharing learning

Nick has written several specialist books on birds of prey, and made 14 films, including a series of 10 management films to encourage people to learn practical skills with birds of prey. He also has an ongoing internship programme and has trained over 200 people from many nationalities. They stay from three months to three years.

In 2013, IWC initiated a programme linking schools in Mongolia, and now in many countries, on wildlife issues.

Awards

He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to Falconry and the Conservation of Raptors In the New Year’s Honours List 2014. His armorial bearings feature three stooping New Zealand Falcons. His motto is ‘Balance’.

In 2018 he was awarded the Prince Don Juan Manuel Award for services to falconry in Spain.

Publications

The Biology of the New Zealand Falcon. 1977. University of Canterbury. 421 pp.

Understanding the Bird of Prey. 1995. Hancock House. (In English, Spanish, Italian and Japanese). 375 pp.

Middle East Falcon Research Group Proceedings 14-16th  November 1995 (Editor) 220 pp.

Welfare Aspects of Killing or Capturing Wild Vertebrates in Britain. 1997. The Hawk Board.

A Global Strategy for the Conservation of Falcons and Houbara. 2000. Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, Abu Dhabi. (in English and Arabic). 37 pp.

Saker Falcon in Mongolia: Research and Conservation. 2001. (Editor) (English and Russian) 240 pp.

Welfare Aspects of Shooting Foxes. 2003. The All Party Parliamentary Middle Way Group, House of Commons, London. (Book and film).

Classical Falconry: A Treatise on Crow and Rook Hawking. 2004. Hancock House. 245 pp.

Falconry in the United Kingdom: An audit of the current position. 2006. The Hawk Board. 41 pp]

Falconry: Celebrating a Living Heritage. 2009. Motivate Publishing (Editor) (English and Arabic) 304 pp.

Morality: A Personal Journey. 2018. (In press). 300 pp.

Nick has written or co-authored over 140 scientific or general papers on raptors and animal welfare and organized many international scientific conferences and meetings. He has featured in a number of films about him and his projects including:

Country Calendar

The One Show.

Countryfile.

Off the Beaten Track.

He has had a book featuring him:

Falcons and Foxes in the UK. Lee Chichester. 2003. Exlibris. 283 pp.

Websites:

www.falcons.co.uk

www.bevistrust.com

www.rofalconry.com 

www.falconryheritage.org 

Mentioned in Financial Times Article – Lendrum case

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