Our fading fauna

Some of you will have started researching and writing for our project with The Wildlife Trusts. This month their content officer Tom Hibbert shares how 26 can make a difference to the UK’s wildlife.

People are part of nature; everything we value ultimately comes from it and everything we do has an impact on it. That is one of the fundamental beliefs of The Wildlife Trusts and a philosophy that guides our every action. We’re a family of conservation charities, with 46 Wildlife Trusts protecting wildlife and bringing people closer to nature across the whole of the UK, Alderney and the Isle of Man, striving to ensure our impact on nature is a positive one.

Nightingale © Chris Gomersall 2020VISION

Sadly, for decades the impact of people on nature has been darker; complex, but with nature so often losing out in the long run. Thorough reports on our wildlife populations, like the State of Nature 2019, make for grim reading. They paint a stark picture of loss on a staggering scale, with 41% of species declining and many on the brink of disappearing entirely from our shores. But it’s vital that we don’t just think of these disappearing animals as a number. Each species is more than just a statistic, it’s an incredible living creature, shaped by countless years of evolution to thrive in the landscape it calls home. And each one has its own story to tell of life, loss and, hopefully, recovery.

That’s why we were delighted when 26 writers offered to help us tell these stories. We cast our thoughts across the whole of the animal kingdom and put together a list of 52 species that have suffered, or are still suffering, declines. We wanted to make the list as diverse as possible, to not only showcase the amazing variety of wildlife found in the UK, but also the fact that the shadow of loss lurks over the entire spectrum of species, from the smallest insects to the largest birds and mammals.

Pine marten © Mark Hamblin2020VISION

Some of the species will be familiar to many: hedgehogs that snuffle delightfully through gardens on their nightly feeding routes, or nightingales that burst into joyous song from tangled forest thickets, the inspiration for poets through the ages. Though these creatures may be familiar, their plight may not. Both have declined dramatically in recent years, held forever in our imagination but slowly fading from our sight. Sadly, you’re now far more likely to read poetry dedicated to the nightingale’s song than you are to hear those liquid verses for yourself. The most important thing to remember is that none of these stories is without hope. With enough effort, enough impetus for change, we can reverse almost any decline. Pine martens, the elusive, arboreal cousins of stoats and weasels, were once our second most common carnivore, but were driven back into isolated pockets by deforestation and persecution. Now, with the help of conservationists including The Wildlife Trusts, they’re making a comeback.

Sir David Attenborough © The Wildlife Trusts

Beavers, hunted to extinction in the UK, once again roam free in Scotland, with projects underway to return them to the wild in England and Wales.

But to paraphrase the great Sir David Attenborough, people will only protect what they care about, and they will only care about what they have experienced. By telling the stories of these amazing creatures, you’re helping bring them and their plight to life. All that’s left for us to say is thank you, and we can’t wait to read your wonderful words.

– Tom Hibbert, content officer at The Wildlife Trusts

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