Survey sharing could help save many species
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