Sur­vey shar­ing could help save many species

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

IN days gone by, some en­vi­ron­men­tal and con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions were a lit­tle pre­cious about their re­search and data, and while there was never an all-out war be­tween the dif­fer­ent groups, in­for­ma­tion stayed put in re­spec­tive fil­ing cab­i­nets.

Thank­fully this has all changed, helped in no small way by the ease of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

As an ex­am­ple, many read­ers will have taken part in the Royal So­ci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of Bird’s (RSPB) Big Gar­den Bird­watch and they will have no­ticed that par­tic­i­pants were en­cour­aged to record mam­mals, rep­tiles, in­sects and other an­i­mals.

The records poured in and now the RSPB is shar­ing the in­for­ma­tion with other in­ter­ested bod­ies.

Henry John­son, hedge­hog of­fi­cer at the Peo­ple’s Trust for En­dan­gered Species, ex­plained how the in­for­ma­tion re­vealed about hedge­hogs has made a real dif­fer­ence to his work.

“No-one can deny that the world of wildlife record­ing is com­plex and we find our­selves in a tran­si­tional pe­riod as dig­i­tal plat­forms and apps come to the fore. A fu­ture where in­for­ma­tion about wildlife is up­dated in real time, and freely avail­able to all, should be the goal.

“That’s why it was hugely en­cour­ag­ing to be ap­proached by the or­gan­is­ers of the Big Gar­den Bird­watch and be of­fered the hedge­hog records.”

Hedge­hogs are cur­rently de­clin­ing pre­cip­i­tously in the UK. In Novem­ber, the Peo­ple’s Trust for En­dan­gered Species (PTES) and the Bri­tish Hedge­hog Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety (BHPS) launched The State of Bri­tain’s Hedge­hogs 2015, the head­line of which was that since 2000, ru­ral hedge­hog pop­u­la­tions have de­clined by at least a half and ur­ban pop­u­la­tions by up to a third in the same pe­riod.

The value of the Big Gar­den Bird­watch sur­vey is that it has dra­mat­i­cally im­proved our un­der­stand­ing of where hedge­hogs are in the UK.

In the last two years, around 42,000 more dots have been added to the na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion map. For an an­i­mal that is in rapid de­cline, the half-life for dis­tri­bu­tion data is short, so col­lab­o­rat­ing with the RSPB has greatly im­proved the ac­cu­racy.

The RSPB first asked the pub­lic to record any other wildlife they see in their gar­dens in 2014. As a well-es­tab­lished sur­vey with a wide ge­o­graph­i­cal reach, this data has proven use­ful to a num­ber of other spe­cial­ist con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing The Mam­mal So­ci­ety and The Am­phib­ian and Rep­tile Con­ser­va­tion Trust.

This year, peo­ple have spot­ted many dif­fer­ent species, in­clud­ing hedge­hogs, bad­gers, grey and red squir­rels, foxes, stoats, slow worms and grass snakes.

An un­prece­dented num­ber of peo­ple from across the UK took part in this year’s event by count­ing the birds and other wildlife they spot­ted through­out the year.

The story so far: 202,172 sur­veys sub­mit­ted; 320,444 peo­ple took part.

On a per­sonal note, I would love to hear from read­ers who have had bad­gers vis­it­ing their gar­dens.

The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

●● Bad­gers were among the dif­fer­ent mam­mals recorded dur­ing the Big Gar­den Bird­watch

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