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How to stop the humble hedgehog disappearing from British gardens and countryside forever

The Conversation

File 20180103 26145 1k3gyfy.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Where have all the hedgehogs gone? shutterstock

Daniel Allen, Keele University

When the humble hedgehog was crowned “Britain’s national species” in a BBC Wildlife Magazine poll and “Britain’s favourite mammal” in a Royal Society of Biology poll, no doubt, sentimentalised memories of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, played a role in swaying public opinion.

Ecologist and author Hugh Warwick explained how:

Beatrix Potter managed to sprinkle some magic over the hedgehog, transforming it into the irresistible companion of our gardens.

But despite their popularity, hedgehogs are now something of a rare sight in British gardens – and are in fact disappearing at the same rate as tigers worldwide. Rural hedgehogs in the UK have halved in number since 2000, while urban hedgehogs have declined by a third. More widely, UK hedgehog numbers have dropped from an estimated 30m in the 1950s to under a million today.

So what’s to blame? We are. Well, the changing lifestyles and tastes of people, to be precise. Farming methods have changed dramatically over recent years – becoming increasingly intensive. This has led to the removal of many hedges, an important habitat for the British hedgehog. It has also had negative implications on their main diet of worms, beetles, slugs, caterpillars, earwigs and millipedes.

The country’s roads are also busier. Hedgehog road deaths are estimated to exceed 100,000 a year in Britain. Road networks also cut through habitats leaving hedgehogs isolated, while our gardens are increasingly becoming more humanised. Lawns have been turned into tarmac for cars, foliage has been torn out, decking added, garden borders peppered with slug pellets, and hedges replaced by impenetrable fences and walls. All of which mean that hedgehogs are not only losing their habitats, but also their chances of survival.

Hedgehog friendly gardens

The plight is such that the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and People’s Trust for Endangered Species launched Hedgehog Street in 2011 to encourage people to champion the species and its habitat.

Hedgehog feeding station. British Hedgehog Preservation Society Facebook

At the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in 2014, designer Tracy Foster made Hedgehog Street a reality, creating a summer garden to demonstrate “how neighbours can work together to help hedgehogs by providing routes through garden boundaries”. Sharing slogans such as “no one garden is enough” and “make a hole, make a difference”, the hedgehog haven won People’s Choice for Best Small Garden and the coveted RHS Gold medal. The first permanent Hedgehog Street garden was unveiled at RHS Harlow Carr, in North Yorkshire in April 2017.

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Hybridization patterns in two contact zones of grass snakes reveal a new Central European snake species | Scientific Reports

This is amazing news. Natrix natrix -previously thought to be the only grass snake in the UK – has been found to be genetically distinct from what was previously thought to be a variation rather than separate species, the newly named Natrix venaticus. Studies sampled mtDNA from existing skins and specimens and found clear genetic differences between the two, confirming Natrix venaticus as a separate and distinct species. No living snakes were harmed for the study either, which is always good news.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-07847-9

Beavers back for good – partners welcome return of the Eurasian beaver – Scottish Wildlife Trust

Wonderful news.

The two lead partners in the Scottish Beaver Trial – the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) – have warmly welcomed today’s (21 November 2016) announcement from the Scottish Government that the Eurasian beaver is to be formally recognised as a native species, 400 years after being hunted to extinction in the UK.”

http://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/article/beavers-back-for-good/

Animal Defenders International : Publications : Political Animals 2015: Badger cull in England

http://www.ad-international.org/publications/go.php?id=4033

Anti-cull campaigners have been saying for years that it is poor animal husbandry and poor hygiene on farms, not to mention extended overwintering of cattle in sheds, that has brought about increased bTB in cattle; but why listen to logic when spending millions of tax payer money on culling our native wildlife appeases farmers of their own guilt?

Now the science is out! It has now been demonstrated that it is infected pasture and faeces that is perpetuating bTB in cattle.

The alternative Countryfile interview. – Mark AveryMark Avery

http://markavery.info/2016/06/07/alternative-countryfile-interview/

Did anyone see the latest episode of #Countryfile? Or #Countryfail, as it is now being dubbed.

This is the interview they SHOULD have shown, words courtesy of Mark Ian Avery. Instead, we get pro-shooting, pro-hunting BBC biased propaganda on #Countryfile. What a shame we have very little honest, informed reporting on upland, grouse shooting, land management issues, and instead such biased rubbish from the tax-payer-funded British Broadcasting Corporation.

The countryside as we know it is an artificial construct, so claiming that townies “don’t understand the countryside” is absolute rubbish. Anyone with a basic understanding of ecology knows that ‘land management’ and predator ‘control’ destroys delicate ecosystems. These people have created their own niche playground, destroying native wildlife at every turn to maintain it for the benefit of the few, and then having the audacity to claim they are custodians of the land. Time for a massive overhaul.

Vets are denied access to abattoir footage | | The Times & The Sunday Times

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/vets-denied-access-to-abattoir-footage-hc7z27qmk

“More than 30 slaughterhouses are refusing to let official vets view CCTV footage of animals being killed, prompting concerns that they are hiding illegal acts of cruelty.”

Why? It does not take a genius to work this out. And what are “illegal acts of cruelty” anyway, in contrast to legal acts of cruelty? Vivisectionists commit legal acts of cruelty as a matter of course. Why are we as a species still perpetuating this abominable treatment of other animals every single minute of every single day? Don’t be a part of it. It’s not logical, it’s not ethical, it’s not ok.

Standing up to the Left on Animal Rights | jayforjustice

https://jayforjustice.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/standing-up-to-the-left-on-animal-rights/

Remember: the animal rights movement is a social justice movement. If you believe in freedom of speech, the right to a peaceful life without the threat of violence and war, protecting the young and innocent from violence and abuse, if you believe in protecting and defending female rights and control over their own reproductive system, if you believe in absolute equality, liberty and justice as a whole, then why aren’t you also defending all non-human animals’ rights? We are all animals. Respect for life is respect for life, regardless of the species that life belongs to.

Toxic chemicals in Scottish waters wiping out killer whales – The Scotsman

http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/toxic-chemicals-in-scottish-waters-wiping-out-killer-whales-1-4001108

It seems PCBs can remain in the environment for a long time; these aren’t the only orca populations becoming sick and dying from PCB contamination. It’s a very sad state of affairs for resident orca in the UK, and worldwide.