THE ECONOMY of the South Coast could be boosted by “up to £5million a year” after the UK’s first white-tailed eagles were released into the skies.

Six young birds were part of a successful five-year programme run by Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation to restore the lost species and have now been reintroduced to Southern England after 240 years.

As a result, the project is expected to make a significant contribution to the local economy after a similar scheme on The Isle of Mull boosted its economy by up to £5million a year - due to the birds attracting “more tourists who want to see nature” to the area.

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It comes after the birds were collected from the wild in Scotland and brought to care in England.

Since their release, the birds have been provided with feeding sites to “encourage them to settle along the South Coast” while their progress is closely monitored by a team running the programme through satellite trackers.

The reintroduction of the eagles is being conducted under licence by the government’s wildlife licensing authority Natural England, and now the eagles have become the first group of birds as part of a plan to set six birds free to the Isle of Wight every year, although breeding is not expected to begin until at least 2024.

Chairman of Natural England Tony Juniper said: “The return of these spectacular birds to England is a real landmark for conservation. I very much hope that it will also provide a practical demonstration of the fact that we can actually reverse the historic decline of our depleted natural environment.

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“It will also show how helping the recovery of our wildlife can be done at the same time as bringing benefits for people, in this case by offering a boost to the local economy through wildlife tourism, as has happened in Scotland after these birds were reintroduced there back in the 1970s."

Founder of Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation Roy Dennis said: “I've spent much of my life working on the reintroduction of these amazing birds and so watching them take to the skies of the Isle of Wight has been a truly special moment.

"Establishing a population of white-tailed eagles in the South of England will link and support emerging populations of these birds in the Netherlands, France and Ireland, with the aim of restoring the species to the southern half of Europe."

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Forestry England’s South District Forest management director Bruce Rothnie said: “The diversity of our wildlife is under real pressure with many species now in long-term decline. We are immensely proud that the woodlands we manage on the Isle of Wight and surrounding South Coast are now home to these incredibly rare birds as they return to England’s coastline.”