OUR nation’s native species are facing a crisis – with many heading towards extinction if action isn’t taken.
Beautiful animals such as the red squirrel, the adder and even common birds such as the chaffinches that live in so many of our gardens, are facing a colossal decline.
We need to act fast to stop this. So I welcome plans to offer greater protection to these endangered creatures.
This month the Government will issue a White Paper for a new framework for conserving threatened habitats in the United Kingdom.
It is intended to replace the one in place when we were in the European Union.
We need it to be tougher than the rules set by Brussels. It is vital we get our new rules right and, as someone who has worked with wildlife for 40 years, I have some thoughts.
Atualmente, there is a red list for birds, showing which types are declining rapidly.
According to last year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, 16 of the top 20 bird species have declined since the previous year’s survey.
It would be good to see a red alert system introduced into the new legislation so action has to be taken when a dramatic fall is recorded among a certain species.
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A mechanism could kick in mandating an investigation. And if it is found that, por exemplo, certain pesticides are causing insects such as the ladybird to die, then their use could be restricted.
Extinction is for ever. Britain cannot afford to lose our beloved local species such as the turtle dove, which is at a critical point.
There should be funded programmes in places across the country designed to bring the number of breeding pairs back up again. This can be done.
It is good to set targets and I am pleased the Prime Minister wants to conserve 30 per cent of British land by 2030.
Whether this will be enough to save some of our once abundant animals is unclear. It is feared the adder will have disappeared from the UK two years after that date.
There have been positive messages about trebling the number of trees planted, but they need to be broadleaf, not conifer, to encourage native species to thrive.
The Government has put forward a plan to provide subsidies to farmers who are more ecologically conscious.
In principle, this is a good idea, because it should increase the number of wild meadows and hedgerows that support biodiversity.
We are yet to see the full details of this policy and the deal has to be worthwhile for our embattled food producers.
British farming is a tough business to be in, facing demands from dominant supermarkets for ever lower prices which, in a time of inflation, consumers will understandably want.
But our farmers need the support of consumers because they won’t be digging ponds and setting aside acreage if they have no spare cash.
A lot of food producers in this country do great work and we need to back them at the checkout.
It is worth paying attention to which products support regenerative or organic farming. The species extinction is a crisis that will need investment.
There need to be staff to monitor it, investigate the causes and enforce the law.
The alarm is ringing and it is time to send the ambulance to save our most beloved animals.
RED SQUIRREL – 140K LEFT
IN many parts of the UK there are no red squirrels left – so in those areas, controlling the grey ones is pointless.
But in the spot where reds are holding on, we should cull the grey ones.
We need to stop them getting on to the Isle of Wight, Anglesey, and spreading deeper into Scotland, because they transmit the squirrelpox virus that kills reds.
CHAFFINCH – 30% DOWN IN 11 ANOS
OUR greenfinch population is now red listed and I am worried the chaffinch could follow suit.
The greenfinch is of critical concern because of a parasite that now seems to have spread to chaffinches.
Five years ago the chaffinch was one of the top five most common birds in Britain, but there are now far less of them.
We need to research what is happening with the chaffinch.
HAZEL DORMOUSE – 51% DOWN SINCE 200
THIS mainly lives in woodlands and hedgerows – which are being reduced all the time.
At around 13 por cento, the UK has one of the least amounts of woodland in Europe.
Only two per cent of our ancient woodlands are left, so it’s no surprise this dormouse risks being wiped out.
I welcome the Government’s plans for more trees – but we need native broadleaf varieties.
TURTLE DOVE – 98% DOWN SINCE 1970
THESE beautiful birds are a victim of industrialised farming because the arable weeds they feed on are being destroyed by chemicals.
There will be no more turtle doves in a pear tree if the current rate of decline is allowed to continue.
The Government’s idea of incentivising farmers to grow more hedgerows and leave land in a natural state would help.
HEDGEHOG – 50% DOWN IN 20 ANOS
OUR hedgehog population is suffering because of a loss of habitat and rodenticides.
The hedgerows in which they live are being removed to make way for more farmland.
And they are liable to eat the poisons that are put down for rats.
We obviously do need to control the rat population, but these poisons need to be used responsibly.
TWO-SPOTTED LADYBIRD – 44% DOWN SINCE 2004
THE invasive, non-native harlequin ladybird has arrived in the UK from Europe, devastating our native ones.
We could reduce the risk to them by limiting the use of pesticides.
An organic farmer I know is more profitable since ditching expensive insecticides ten years ago.
Ironicamente, the harlequin was introduced into Europe from Asia to control pests.
HEN HARRIER – 39% DOWN IN 12 ANOS
THERE is strong evidence that hen harriers are being poisoned, trapped and shot by the grouse-shooting industry. They eat grouse so have become victims of illegal persecution.
We satellite track hen harriers and a disproportionate amount disappear on grouse moors.
When the RSPB do secure a prosecution, only a small fine is handed out.
ADDER – 90% DOWN IN 11 ANOS
ONCE common, this type of snake likes dry grassland, which is being dug up.
Researchers believe the huge number of pheasants released for shooting each year are driving down our reptile populations. Pheasants kill and eat reptiles, including adders.
I am not calling for game shooting to end, but we need to know its effects so we can properly regulate this industry.