Race is on to save our threat­ened crea­tures

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Countryside -

Some of Bri­tain’s best-loved wildlife species are un­der se­ri­ous threat, but ef­forts are be­ing made to re­verse their alarm­ing de­cline

THE Peo­ple’s Trust for Endangered Species has drawn up an am­bi­tious list of projects to help raise aware­ness of the threats posed to some of our best-loved and most at-risk wildlife through the year ahead.

With a mix­ture of ini­tia­tives aimed at both in­di­vid­ual species and the habi­tats they oc­cupy, the PTES aims to give a help­ing hand to crea­tures that were once com­mon and are now any­thing but.

The UK con­ser­va­tion char­ity cre­ated in 1977, has global reach, try­ing to en­sure a fu­ture for endangered species through­out the world. But in the UK it seeks to pro­tect some of Bri­tain’s most threat­ened wildlife species and habi­tats, pro­vid­ing prac­ti­cal con­ser­va­tion sup­port through re­search, grant-aid, ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes, wildlife sur­veys, pub­li­ca­tions and pub­lic events.

In set­ting its goals for 2019, the char­ity says: “Our cur­rent pri­or­ity species and habi­tats in­clude hazel dormice, hedge­hogs, wa­ter voles, no­ble chafers, stag bee­tles, tra­di­tional or­chards, na­tive wood­lands, wood pas­ture and park­land and hedgerows.”

It has en­listed the sup­port of MPs as ‘species cham­pi­ons’ for three of its pri­or­ity species. Trans­port Min­is­ter Chris Grayling looks after hedge­hogs, Hi­lary Benn, MP for Leeds Cen­tral and chair­man of the Brexit se­lect com­mit­tee, takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for wa­ter voles, and Health Sec­re­tary Matt Han­cock sup­ports dormice.

The pri­or­ity for hedge­hog con­ser­va­tion in 2019 is shared be­tween PTES, the Bri­tish Hedge­hog Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety and the cam­paign Hedge­hog Street. It en­cour­ages house­hold­ers to cre­ate hedge­hogfriendly neigh­bour­hoods, li­ais­ing with devel­op­ers to have new hous­ing es­tates built with wildlife in mind, and mon­i­tors hedge­hog num­bers.

It also ad­vises farm­ers on how to man­age land for the ben­e­fit of hedge­hogs, fol­low­ing stud­ies that show that while num­bers ap­pear to be re­cov­er­ing in ur­ban ar­eas, they are still in de­cline in the coun­try­side.

Re­search blames the in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of agri­cul­ture re­sult­ing in fewer nest­ing sites and a drop in the avail­abil­ity of food – mostly in­sect lar­vae and earth­worms – for hedge­hogs to eat. It also points to road­kill, with ru­ral roads of­ten hav­ing poor light­ing and higher speed lim­its, as a ma­jor prob­lem, as well as pre­da­tion by bad­gers and foxes.

Hazel dormice have been mon­i­tored for 29 years by PTES ex­perts un­der the Na­tional Dor­mouse Mon­i­tor­ing Pro­gramme, co-funded by Nat­u­ral Eng­land. It is the long­est run­ning small mam­mal mon­i­tor­ing project in the world with more than 1,600 vol­un­teers – and it has found the UK dormice pop­u­la­tion has de­clined by over a third in the last 18 years alone.

To re­verse the de­cline, PTES man­ages the an­nual dor­mouse rein­tro­duc­tion pro­gramme across 12 English coun­ties and al­most 10,000 dor­mouse have been re­leased over the past 25 years. Ex­eter Uni­ver­sity is also car­ry­ing out re­search into dor­mouse hi­ber­na­tion.

Wa­ter voles are in even greater trou­ble with num­bers plum­met­ing by around 90 per cent – the fastest and most dra­matic loss of any Bri­tish mam­mal ever. In 2015, the PTES Na­tional Wa­ter Vole Mon­i­tor­ing Pro­gramme es­tab­lished where wa­ter voles re­main and the work will con­tinue through the spring, with mem­bers of the pub­lic urged to record their sight­ings via the PTES web­site.

Projects con­cen­trat­ing on habi­tats will in­clude a cam­paign to pre­serve tra­di­tional or­chards, which have also de­clined by more than 90 per cent over the past 70 years. The rise of the com­mu­nity or­chard, which in­volves peo­ple car­ing for an or­chard and ben­e­fit­ing from its fruit, is help­ing pre­serve those that are left, with al­most 1,000 com­mu­nity or­chard groups now in ex­is­tence.

PTES is also plan­ning to es­tab­lish a data­base on hedgerows and pro­vide landown­ers with de­tailed ad­vice on man­ag­ing their hedgerows for the ben­e­fit of wildlife.

The char­ity says: “Hedgerows are a pri­or­ity habi­tat but knowl­edge of their ex­tent and con­di­tion is in­com­plete with no cur­rent cen­tral in­for­ma­tion repos­i­tory ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing a use­ful in­sight to landown­ers on how to man­age their hedgerows sym­pa­thet­i­cally.”

And in a rather grisly ex­ten­sion to the idea of cit­i­zen sci­ence, the PTES is propos­ing to sur­vey mam­mals on roads – dead and alive – in an at­tempt to show the dis­tri­bu­tion of species and long-term changes in the num­bers.

“Sight­ings of mam­mals, dead and alive , are recorded by vol­un­teers on road jour­neys,” the char­ity says. “The GPS func­tion of the phone or mo­bile de­vice iden­ti­fies the lo­ca­tion of the sight­ing and the dis­tance trav­elled, show­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion of species and long-term changes in their abun­dance.”

For more de­tails go to: ptes.org.

The dor­mouse (far left), wa­ter vole and hedge­hog all have theircham­pi­ons in Par­lia­ment

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.