Britain’s long cold spell is threatening ever greater numbers of animals, birds and insects. The length of the current cold spell is unprecedented, with temperatures are unlikely to return to their average level until the end of April. By that time, a great deal of harm could have been done to the nation’s wildlife.
A report in The Observer warns that the freezing weather is particularly affecting creatures that are already struggling to survive the loss of their habitats and changes in climate, including:
- Hedgehogs that are still hibernating. “The weather is not yet warm enough to wake them,” said Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the Hedgehog Preservation Society. “Usually they would be up and about by now. The problem is that the longer a hedgehog remained asleep, the weaker it gets and the less energy it has to restore itself to wakefulness. In general, the longer the cold weather lasts, the greater the number of animals that will not wake up at all. Hedgehogs that have already woken up are having a hard time finding any food.
- Seabirds along the east coast are also badly affected, struggling to catch fish in the current stormy conditions. Puffins, guillemots, razorbills, cormorants and gulls are all affected.
- Owls and small birds, such as goldcrests, long-tailed tits and wrens, which mainly feed on small insects, are finding the current cold weather very tricky.
- Frogs have spawned only for their ponds to have frozen over, while many plants and insects are emerging late, which has a knock-on effect on species that feed on them.
- Butterflies wake-up in April and, if it is still freezing, that could have very serious consequences for their ability to get food.
The RSPB says everyone can help by making sure their bird feeders are regularly topped up, and The Hedgehog Preservation Society recommends that nature lovers leave plentiful water supplies and food, either meaty cat or dog meals or specialist hedgehog food.
Posted in Climate change, Nature, Wildlife
Tagged animal welfare, birds, butterflies, countryside, Environment, frogs, hedgehogs, owls, RSPB, seabirds, wildlife, woods
It’s nearly time for the 2013 Big Green Bike Ride, which is a great way to raise funds for Friends of the Earth.
This year’s ride starts on Saturday, 27 April, and the 85 mile route will take you from the hustle and bustle of London, through the country lanes of Surrey and Hampshire, to the New Forest.
The next day will be spent exploring the heather-covered heath, farmland, ancient woodland and mudflats of the beautiful corner of the countryside. If you need any training tips, the Olympic Gold Medalist Alex Gold MBE is supporting the event and has written a blog on the Friends of the Earth website which is well worth a read.
Turtle doves are one of the most endangered birds in the UK, but the population here has been given a boost by the creativity of a 6-year-old girl from Sheffield.
Operation Turtle Dove, a partnership project to save this bird on the brink of extinction, launched the competition to find names for their two logo birds. And thanks to Alice Stavert-Dobson, they are now christened as Heart and Hope.
Alice (pictured below with her sister) said: “I chose ‘Heart’ to represent love and ‘Hope’ because I hope turtle doves will still be here in the future. I was really pleased to win the competition and I can’t wait to go and see the turtle doves this summer in Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.”
Turtle doves are currently embarking on a long journey back to the UK after spending the winter in Sub-Sarahan Africa and should arrive back in the UK around the middle of April. The threat to this iconic bird is real. Changes in modern day agricultural practices have been attributed to the loss of arable plants in farmland, which produce the early seed source turtle doves need on their return to the UK.
Alison Gardner from the RSPB said: “It is distressing to learn that we have lost nearly 60 per cent of our turtle doves in the five years to 2010. If this decline continues we could be down to fewer than 1000 pairs by 2020, with complete UK extinction a real possibility.
“The fantastic work of Operation Turtle Dove aims to make a real difference. Project partners are working with farmers to implement a bespoke seed rich mix which will be available to turtle doves on their return in Spring. Our new turtle dove logo names reflect these birds so beautifully and we want to secure their future so children like Alice and her sister Thea will be able to enjoy their gentle ‘purring’ way into their adulthood and beyond.”
Pic: Eric Vidal/Reuters
There was widespread anger as the European proposal to protect bees from toxic pesticides failed to get a majority.
Campaigners across the continent hoped the European Commission’s proposed two-year suspension of neonicotinoids would be passed, but major nations, including UK and Germany, failed to back the plan in a vote on Friday.
The result leaves environmental campaigners, scientists and some politicians bitterly disappointed. “Britain and Germany have caved in to the industry lobby and refused to ban bee-killing pesticides” said Iain Keith, of the campaign group Avaaz. “Today’s vote flies in the face of science and public opinion and maintains the disastrous chemical armageddon on bees, which are critical for the future of our food.
“But the European Commission will appeal the decision and can still get it adopted! This week we got Spain on our side, let’s keep up the pressure on Germany, the UK and other countries who abstained or opposed today.”
Suspensions have previously been put in place in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia, but the EC proposal would have applied across all 27 member states. Many major agricultural nations, including France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland, voted for the ban, while the UK and Germany abstained, with Hungary and Romania leading those opposed.
However, the ban could still be enforced within months if the EC takes the decision to an appeals committee. Friday’s vote, by member states’ experts on the standing committee on the food chain and animal health, saw 13 nations in favour of the ban, five abstaining and nine opposing, meaning there was no majority for or against.
In a praiseworthy and long overdue move, the EU has now issued a complete ban on all cosmetics developed through animal testing. The 27 countries of the EU already had a ban in place for animal testing within the EU, but they have now extended the ban to reject any product that has been tested on animals, regardless of where that testing was carried out.
The anti-vivisection group BUAV and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) have been fighting for this change for 20 years, with some very notable celebrity supporters such as Sir Paul McCartney, Morrissey and Sienna Miller. The group is pressing for a global ban, as there are still many places in the world that victimize our fellow creatures so that we can over-consume vain (and usually ineffective) beautification products.
The EU Commission is working to develop alternatives to animal testing, allocating 238m…
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In just hours, the European Union will vote on whether to ban toxic pesticides that are killing bees around the world and threatening our food supply.
The big corporations profiting from the pesticides are lobbying furiously to defeat the ban and the campaign group Avaaz has just heard that key governments are about to cave in – unless they feel the sting of public opinion!
Avaaz says: “Bees are disappearing around the world at alarming rates. Because bees pollinate our crops, experts are warning that these mass deaths pose a catastrophic threat to our food supply.
“Thankfully, numerous studies have now identified the likely culprit: a certain class of noxious pesticides. An official EU report found that banning them could solve the problem, but pesticide giant Bayer is trying to convince our leaders to ignore the science to protect their profits.”
“Over 2.5 million of us have signed the petition that made this vote possible – and now it’s time to tell our politicians that they must side with science to save the bees this week. Let’s flood the inboxes of our EU Agriculture Ministers, drown out the corporate lobby, and make sure our governments saves the bees and our food. Over 300,00 people have so far!”
Visit the Avaaz website to send a message to the EU Ministers of Agriculture, and urge them to support this crucial proposal.
The world produces enough food for everyone, but not everyone has enough food. Here’s a great new campaign worth supporting.
Pic: National Geographic
There was some sad news today when it was reported that a dead sperm whale washed up on the southern Spanish coast had swallowed 17kg of plastic waste dumped into the sea by farmers tending greenhouses that produce vegetables for British supermarkets.
The 4.5 tonne whale had swallowed 59 different bits of plastic – most of it thick transparent sheeting used to build greenhouses in southern Almeria and Granada, reported The Guardian. The plastic had eventually blocked the animal’s stomach and killed it, according to researchers from Doñana national park research centre in Andalusia.
In all the whale’s stomach contained two dozen pieces of transparent plastic, some plastic bags, nine metres of rope, two stretches of hosepipe, two small flower pots and a plastic spray canister. All were typical of the Almeria greenhouses where plants are grown in beds of perlite stones and drip-fed chemical fertilisers. Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are all valued customers.
Environmentalists complain that local riverbeds are often awash with plastic detritus and some ends up in the sea. “The problem of degraded plastics that are no longer recyclable still remains,” said Renaud de Stephanis, lead researcher at Doñana. “These animals feed in waters near an area completely flooded by the greenhouse industry, making them vulnerable to its waste products if adequate treatment of this industry’s debris is not in place.”
The news came just two days after British actor Jeremy Irons told a conference that people must overhaul their habits of “unadulterated consumerism” if the EU is to curb its huge waste problem.
The European Commission hosted the conference in Brussels to announce the publication of the EU’s green paper on plastic waste. It aims to launch discussions about how to make plastic products more sustainable throughout their life cycle and reduce the impact of plastic discards on the environment.
“We have time for things we think are important,” said Irons. “If people were made aware of the follow on [of waste disposal]… Unadulterated consumerism will not work. Now it is really time to think. The old model, especially in this part of the world, hasn’t worked well.”