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Stephen Moss Square Peg, 2016, HBK, BW Book­shop price £16.99

We’ve be­come used to hear­ing of the grave threats faced by the UK’S wild crea­tures, from habi­tat loss, per­se­cu­tion, cli­mate change and a host of other fac­tors. The dis­ap­pear­ance of once-ubiq­ui­tous species, such as House Spar­row, from large parts of our landscapes and lives is per­haps even more alarm­ing than the de­cline of al­ready rarer ones, such as the Scot­tish Wild­cat. It’s a sur­prise then, and a heart­en­ing one, to find that Stephen Moss finds so much hope in his wide-rang­ing anal­y­sis of ef­forts to bring back Bri­tain’s wildlife. It’s not that he paints a rose-tinted pic­ture, or flinches from con­sid­er­ing con­tro­ver­sial mea­sures for giv­ing strug­gling species the space they need to thrive. A se­lec­tive cull of Grey Squirrels to save the em­bat­tled Reds, for ex­am­ple, is some­thing Moss ad­mits re­luc­tantly com­ing round to. Through­out, though, he tem­pers his hard­nosed prag­ma­tism with an ac­knowl­edge­ment of the some­times star­tling con­ser­va­tion suc­cesses al­ready achieved – the rise and rise of city cen­tre Pere­grines, for ex­am­ple, or the re­turn of the Ot­ter to so many British rivers. And so, by the end of this thor­oughly read­able and en­gag­ing book, you’re left with a re­newed energy for the fight, and a con­vic­tion that rewil­d­ing and land­scape-scale ini­tia­tives can re­store some of our most cher­ished wildlife, while also form­ing a vi­tal part of the econ­omy. Moss writes with a pas­sion and feel­ing that his crisp prose kin­dles in the reader, too.

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