For many people growing up in our cities and towns a generation ago, interacting with wildlife was just as much a part of life as it was for their country cousins. The call of an owl in the park? Historically, as normal as the cheery sound of the ice cream van. The sight of a hedgehog scuttling behind a hedge at dawn? No more surprising to a child of the seventies than the familiar sight of the lollipop lady. It’s hardly surprising that reading about the state of the wildlife in our cities today can be a bleak business.
The sad truth is that more than half of the UK’s species are in trouble, and urban creatures are no exception. Take hedgehogs, for example - urban numbers have plummeted by 30% since the turn of the century. Meanwhile, sparrows decreased by a staggering 60% between 1994 and 2004 in some of the UK’s most built-up areas. Amphibians are also suffering, with toad populations thought to have declined by 68% across the UK in the last 30 years, partly due to the neglect of urban ponds.
There are beacons of hope, however, and one of the most exciting is right here in Bristol. In the year we are celebrating our 40th birthday, it is fitting that we are also celebrating one of our flagship sites which solves the problem of declining urban wildlife.