Our wonderful wildlife is plummeting – but there’s hope for nature’s recovery

(C) David Tipling 2020Vision

Snuffling, crinkly-eyed hedgehogs; long-eared, darting hares; softly cooing turtle doves and endearing water voles are just some of the wonderful wild animals now at serious risk of disappearing from the UK, according to a startling report – the State of Nature – which was published last week. The report finds that populations of our most important wildlife have plummeted by an average of 60% since 1970 and there are no signs of let-up in the loss of nature.

A quarter of UK mammals and nearly half of the birds assessed are at risk of extinction says State of Nature, which was produced jointly by more than 70 wildlife organisations and government conservation agencies.  And the reasons are clear; the intensification of farming across our landscapes, pollution affecting our soils and air, the destruction of habitats for housing, roads and industry, and the climate crisis putting pressure on our finely balanced natural systems.

Scanning through the State of Nature report certainly makes for grim reading but absorbing ever more depressing statistics on the loss of our nature can make all of us feel despair. In fact, we can feel hope ebbing away and decide there’s no point in taking any action to change things.

But look closely and see the stories of success and the glimmers of hope that we need to hold onto.  Soaring red kites are now a common sight having returned to large areas; booming bitterns are heard again in England after disappearing from our shores decades ago and beautiful large blue butterflies have been saved from extinction.  All these stories of ‘back from the brink’ reintroductions are due to the dedicated efforts of organisations and individuals including volunteers - like the many hundreds of people of all ages who are part of our work restoring habitats and supporting wildlife across Avon.

And we’re continuing to focus on how and where we can reverse nature’s decline and give wildlife habitat, shelter and space to move. We’ve already seen lapwings returning to the low-lying wetlands of the Gordano Valley to breed and raise chicks this year, and these fluffy bundles following the mother bird on unsteady legs, were proof that where we work to support wildlife, it can thrive once more.

It’s not only across large countryside landscapes that action for wildlife makes a difference. Every story we hear of neighbours acting together to make small holes in their back fences to create a ‘hedgehog highway’; every wildflower patch planted in gardens, planters or allotments; every wildlife pond – even washing-up bowl-sized – is giving nature a home. And these actions in neighbourhoods in our region and up and down the UK are adding up to much-needed change.

Alongside practical work to create habitats and make wild spaces truly wildlife friendly as well as good for people to spend time in, we’re continuing to call for a national Nature Recovery Network to be underpinned by law. Together with The Wildlife Trusts, we’re calling for a strong new Environment Act which will ensure our wild places are mapped, connected and valued to form a coherent network for wildlife. Sir David Attenborough has worked with us to make a short film explaining this ‘Nature Recovery Network’ idea and is backing our campaign.  It’s a great watch and he brings his usual clarity and wisdom to show how much nature needs our help.

So, State of Nature is the wake-up call needed to put nature back into full recovery and make our landscapes places where hedgehogs can continue snuffling, hares boxing and turtle doves singing their songs for us and future generations to tune into.

You can watch David Attenborough’s new film here and find out more about the State of Nature report here.