Tomorrow (26th October), two wildlife heroes are going the extra mile – literally – to help support the effort to save one of England’s most threatened birds – the turtle dove. This spring Jonny Rankin, who lives in Bury St Edmunds, walked marathon distances every 24 hours for 13 days. Johnny’s fellow fundraiser, Tristan Reid, pledged to run an incredible 1000 miles – including 14 marathons. Together they will be running the 1000th mile as they cross the finishing line of the Leicester marathon.
Jonny and Tristan have both been motivated by the staggering decline of turtle doves – currently their numbers are halving every six years. Today turtle dove numbers in the UK are just 5% of what they were in 1970. At this rate, complete extinction of the turtle dove as a breeding species in the UK is a real possibility.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the extinction of North America’s passenger pigeon – one the most abundant bird in North America. The story of the passenger pigeon is unsettlingly similar to that of the turtle dove here in the UK. Both are migratory doves threatened by habitat loss, unsustainable hunting and disease. Passenger pigeons plummeted to extinction in just a few decades and turtle doves are heading the same way. It’s too late for passenger pigeons, but our two wildlife heroes don’t want to let turtle doves go the same way.
Jonny says: “When I learnt of Operation Turtle Dove and the very real possibility that we could see a UK extinction of Turtle Doves in my lifetime I wanted to do everything I could to support.”
Tristan explains that he “only started running during February 2013, so this has been a very big challenge!” His marathons have included London, Coniston Lakeland Trails, the St Bega’s Ultra and running the full 84 mile length of Hadrian’s Wall over three days.
Tristan and Jonny both plan to continue their fundraising in 2015 with more long distance challenges.
The money that Jonny, Tristan and friends raise will help Operation Turtle Dove to put measures in place to ensure that the UK becomes a home for increasing populations of these special birds in the future. This is a project launched by RSPB, Conservation Grade, Natural England and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust to stop our turtle doves following the same path as passenger pigeons.
To donate in recognition of Johnny and Tristan’s efforts, and to help save the turtle dove from possible extinction, visit