The at-risk list: How you can help endangered British species from your garden

August 17, 2020

Did you catch RSK Biocensus Managing Director Steph Wray on talkRADIO? With sad news coming from The Mammal Society, that a quarter of Britain’s native mammal species are officially at risk of extinction, Steph took to the airwaves on 1 August to discuss the at-risk list and what we can all do in our homes and gardens to help.

“It is sad news, but it is not surprising news,” said Steph, discussing The Mammal Society’s recently published report, the Red List. “We have been hearing about global lists of species at risk of extinction and seen the rate of animals becoming extinct increasing over recent years. This report by The Mammal Society has really helped to pull this together and put it in front of people to show the state of affairs.”

The Red List, which was published last month, cites hedgehogs, red squirrels and voles among the quarter of Britain’s native mammal species that are now officially at risk of extinction. Joining them on the list, Steph explained, are critically endangered species such as: “the greater mouse-eared bat, which lives in southern England, and the Scottish wild cat, which is at risk from persecution and hybridisation with domestic cats. In the endangered category, we then have beavers, which have been reintroduced to places in the UK, red squirrels, water voles and the grey long-eared bat. When you get to vulnerable status, we are then talking about dormice, hedgehogs, more bats and the Orkney vole.

“There is a range of species and there is not one driver that is behind the status of all these animals; for some of them it is to do with an introduced predator, while some of them are suffering from land-use change or over intensification of farming, for example,” Steph added. “All of these things, however, are related to human activity and if we want to preserve our biodiversity, which is important to help us fight climate change, then we really need to do something about this on a big scale.

“The environment provides all kinds of goods and services for us, from food, timber and fibre to clean air and clean water,” Steph explained. “Everything within human society and the economy is a subset of what the environment provides for us.”

As for the ways that we can all make a difference to make life better for wildlife, Steph suggested starting with the small things: “It is great that people have seen more wildlife and become more engaged with this during lockdown. The things that you could do to help include leaving a small ‘wild place’ in your garden. Isn’t it great that not gardening could be doing something positive for wildlife?

“Leave somewhere a little bit scruffy, let the nettles grow and let the plants seed. If you have hedges and you need to cut them back, wait until the end of the bird breeding season in September or October before you start. You could also not trim everything all in one year so that there are some berries left for birds over the winter.

“If you want to have a more tamed garden and make it look more beautiful, you could grow a whole range of different flowers that produce nectar at different times of the year so that you are feeding the insects right the way through the seasons.”

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