Hedgehogs endangered as manicured gardens take their toll
From the Times, August 28th 2007
Hedgehogs, harvest mice, salmon and sparrows have been included on a list of wildlife in danger for the first time. In all, 1,149 species of plants and animals – twice as many as ten years ago – need special protection, according to the Government’s conservation plan.
Conservationists are giving warning that Britain is no longer a safe haven for many of the animals. Mammals, birds, insects, invertebrates, plants, fish, sea creatures and fungi in need of protection are listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. In 1992, 159 countries agreed at a conference in Rio de Janeiro to do more to protect wildlife. The plan is the British response and it will be used to decide which species and habitats should be targeted for conservation work in an effort to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010.
Grahame Madge, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said that wildlife was under particular threat because of pressure from intensive farming, housing development and manicured gardens. “Wildlife is ebbing away,” he said. “It’s up to everybody who owns land to make a difference. Animals and birds are struggling for food and are at considerable risk. The problem is that for so many years the UK landscape has been under such pressure. Look at our rivers and how our hedgerows are being pulled up and our gardens are now so manicured.”
Gardens account for 3 per cent of the nation’s land, and people are manicuring them to such an extent that birds no longer find the insects and hiding places that they need.
Wildlife habitats, including orchards and ponds, have been added to the list as priorities for protection. The 1,149 species of plants and animals and 65 habitats listed for protection compare with 577 species and 49 habitats on the previous conservation list, which was drawn up ten years ago.
The revised list marks the garden tiger moth and the grass snake as being in need of protection. Creatures that were made priorities previously and remain on the list include the otter, bottlenose dolphin, red squirrel and black grouse. Pine martens, wild cats, mountain hares and brown long-eared bats have been added, along with long-snouted and short-snouted seahorses, and the blue and porbeagle sharks. Sedges, helleborine and marsh orchids and two threatened species of dandelion are among the plants included.
Joan Ruddock, the Biodiversity Minister, said: “Our climate is changing and it is therefore more important than ever that our conservation efforts help our important wildlife habitats to adapt and increase their chances of survival.”
Many animals that were on the danger list ten years ago have increased in numbers, and 123 species have been removed, including the pipistrelle bat.
Mark Avery, RSPB conservation director, said: “Over the past 12 years, the Biodiversity Action Plan has helped everyone to focus attention on priority species. To its credit, we have seen dramatic increases in key species, like bittern, stone curlew, corncrake, nightjar, cirl bunting and woodlark. However, the fact that the bird list now includes more than a fifth of all of the UK’s regularly occurring birds is a cause of alarm, especially as the list now includes a number of woodland birds and summer visiting birds like the cuckoo. Before we can celebrate the widespread removal of species from the list, we will have to tackle some general environmental problems, including further reforms of agriculture, a faster rate of habitat creation and the need to tackle climate change. We will have to act fast.”
Header photo by David Darrell-Lambert/Bird Brain UK