One in five British mammals face ‘high risk’ of extinction

Approximately one-fifth of British mammal species face a high risk of extinction, with climate change, loss of habitat and pesticides all thought to be responsible.

That is according to the first comprehensive review of animal populations in the UK for more than 20 years, with the red squirrel, wildcat and grey long-eared bat all facing severe threats to their survival.

It was also found that other mammals, including the hedgehog and water vole, have seen their numbers decline by as much as 66% over the last two decades.

The Mammal Society chair, Fiona Mathews, said: “It falls upon all of us to try and do what we can to ensure our threatened species do not go the way of the lynx, wolf and elk and disappear from our shores forever.”

Commissioned by Natural England in partnership with the Scottish Natural Heritage, and Natural Resources Wales, the review gathered data on 55 terrestrial mammals across Britain.

Despite many of the animals seeing their numbers decline, it was found that five species’ populations have increased over the last 20 years, while 18 have widened their geographical range.

These include the otter, polecat, beaver and wild boar, which are all now found in a greater number of locations, although many of the ‘success stories’ were only recently introduced in Britain.

Given their importance to both humans and wildlife, the researchers also noted their surprise at a lack of information regarding the populations of brown rats and house mice.

These are estimated at seven million and five million respectively, but in reality could be much higher or lower.

Mathews said the review highlights “unacceptably high” levels of uncertainty around many population densities, and that declines might be overlooked because of a lack of robust evidence.

“There is also an urgent need to quantify precisely the scale of declines in species such as the hedgehog, rabbit, water vole and grey long-eared bat,” she continued.

“Effective and evidence-based strategies for mammal conservation and management must be developed before it is too late.”

 

Image credit: iStock

Author: 

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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