Tag Archives: animal welfare

Global wildlife halved in 40 years, reveals WWF

lion_1_19451

Pic: WWF

Global wildlife populations have halved in just 40 years, according to new research by scientists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014 found.

The key findings are:

  • Populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52% since the 1970s.
  • Freshwater species populations have suffered a 76% decline, an average loss almost double that of land and marine species.
  • The worst declines have been observed in the Tropics.

The report draws upon the Living Planet Index, a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London, which monitors trends in over 10,000 populations of 3038 species since the 1970s. It also looks at how human consumption levels have increased in the same time period. It shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by unsustainable human consumption.

“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.

“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.

Rock star launches badger vaccination appeal

v3-pg-14-badgers

Pic: The Independent

Brian May has launched a badger vaccination funding appeal  to bolster support for alternatives to the cull.

The Queen guitarist hopes to recruit donors and volunteers for a drive to prove that vaccines are a viable alternative and persuade farmers to adopt the method. He hopes to tap into public disquiet about the cull which saw more than 300,000 sign his Downing Street website petition urging a halt.

More than £200,000 has already been pledged by the guitarist and sponsors such as the Lush cosmetics, and the band Hawkwind –who played a charity concert in aid of animal charities last month – have pledged £10,000.

The aim is to generate enough financial backing and volunteers for large-scale five-year programmes across five of the areas worst hit by TB, which are Somerset and Gloucestershire, where pilot culls have been taking place, as well as Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

Vaccination costs around £120 per badger, the Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative (BACVI) says, with costs reducing as more volunteers are found.

One of the criticisms that has been levelled at those of us who have been trying to save badgers for the last three years is that ‘something has to be done and you are advocating nothing’,” said May.

“Well we are advocating something very, very positive. It seems that what is being done at the moment is actually making things worse. Vaccination is, in the end, the only way of eradicating the disease. We hope all those people genuinely in search of a solution will put aside their differences to support BACVI.”

Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

1018773_tcm9-157437

Pic: RSPB

More than half a million people are expected to be watching their garden birds the weekend (25-26 January), for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

It’s the biggest wildlife survey in the world and this year participants are being asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens too, including deer, squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs, frogs and toads.

Also new for 2014, is the RSPB’s LIVE bird counter, making it even easier to take part. The counter can be accessed from the RSPB website and doesn’t even need to be downloaded – simply take your laptop, tablet or smartphone to the window, enter the birds you see as you see them, while the clock counts down your hour.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director says: ”Winter has felt more like autumn for many of us and this could have a significant impact on the number of birds in our gardens.

“Birds come into gardens for food when they can’t find it in the wider countryside but if insects and berries continue to be available long into winter, numbers visiting gardens may be down. The Big Garden Birdwatch will be really interesting this year and will be a good indication of just how much the weather affects their behaviour.

“The key thing for the RSPB is that even if you feel you don’t have as many birds in your garden compared to normal, we still desperately need your results. We will be able to compare results to other mild winter years and compare regional trends, so if you don’t see many birds, we still need to know, it’s really useful information.

“The more people that take part, the greater our understanding of the threats and the solutions will be.”

Starlings hit an all time low in the 2013 Birdwatch with their numbers sinking by a further 16 per cent from 2012. Numbers of house sparrows, which are of high conservation concern, dropped by 17 percent in gardens compared to 2012, whilst numbers of bullfinches and dunnocks were down by 20 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

The data gathered on the mammal and amphibian species will be shared with conservation partners so they can add it to their own records and will be used to help the RSPB tailor its advice on giving nature a home so people can help their wild visitors nest, feed and breed successfully.

To take part, people are asked to spend just one hour at any time of the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend noting the highest number of each bird species seen in their gardens or local outside space at anyone time. They then have three weeks to submit their results to the RSPB, either online or in the post.

Participants don’t have to actually count the other species like hedgehogs and frogs during the birdwatch hour; just tell the RSPB whether they have ever seen them in their gardens, at any time of year.

Wildlife-friendly gardens worth more to homebuyers

gnah_sign_tcm9-347567-1

A new survey has revealed that two-thirds of housebuyers would consider paying more for a wildlife-friendly garden.

The research found that seven out of 10 people in the UK would consider paying extra for a property that has a wildlife-friendly garden. The RSPB and the property website Rightmove asked 1,548 people a series of questions relating to gardens and garden wildlife.

In answer to the question ‘would you pay more for a house with a wildlife friendly garden?’ 14% of people surveyed answered ‘yes, definitely’, another 14% answered ‘probably’ and 39% said ‘maybe’.

Of those surveyed, seven out of 10 (69%) described the area in which they live as either urban or suburban; more than half (56%) have children; and more than nine out of 10 (93%) said they were happy when they saw wildlife in their garden.

The survey was carried out to get an insight into people’s knowledge and interest in UK garden wildlife following the launch of the RSPB’s new campaign, Giving Nature a Home, which aims to help tackle the crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife.

The charity is urging the nation to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces and hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature.

Sarah Houghton, RSPB campaign manager, said: “Gardens provide a valuable lifeline for things like starlings, toads, hedgehogs and butterflies, so we want to persuade people to give nature a home where they live – it could really help make a difference.”

Gloucestershire badger cull called off

badger_emerging_4232

Great news that the badger cull in Gloucestershire is being abandoned after marksmen failed to kill enough badgers to meet their greatly reduced targets.

The collapse of the trial means that the controversial cull is to end three weeks earlier than planned. Also, according to a document seen by the BBC, the licence will be revoked early by Natural England (NE).

The NE document says: “It is recommended that the daily removal rate of badgers is monitored closely and if the rate falls below projections (such that a significant reduction in badger numbers may not be achieved) then we should consider terminating culling operations (by revoking the licence) as in this scenario there is unlikely to be a net benefit from continued culling.”

The pilot culls were testing whether shooting free-running badgers at night could kill sufficient numbers of the animal to reduce TB in cattle herds and the one in Gloucestershire was tasked with killing 70% of all badgers in the area in a maximum of six weeks.

However,  just 30% were killed in that time, leading to an eight-week extension. A revised target  of 58% was set but shooters have failed to kill enough badgers on any night and several night saw no kills at all. The extended cull was due to end on 18 December.

Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, had wanted to roll out the culls across the country, but will have to wait for the verdict of an independent panel of experts, which will judge whether the culls have been effective, safe and humane.

Mark Jones, Executive Director of Humane Society International-UK said: “I am much relieved the government’s badger cull fiasco is finally over, for the time being at least. We hope the government will now do the decent thing and admit that killing badgers to control TB in cattle is a ludicrous and inhumane idea.”

Dominic Dyer, of Care for the Wild, said a protest against the cull in Bristol today would now turn into a celebration. “We’ve already learned lessons about culling – that it doesn’t work,” he said. “We know that there is another way – an improved cattle management system, in conjunction with volunteer-led badger vaccination.”

London rally calls for end to badger cull

About 2,000 people held a rally in London yesterday as licences to cull badgers came into force in two areas.

Up to 5,094 badgers can now be culled in west Somerset and west Gloucestershire. Groups of farmers in the two pilot zones have been given licences to conduct culls using trained marksmen to shoot the animals.

The rally was led by ex-Queen guitarist, Brian May, who delivered a near-250,000 signature petition to Downing Street calling for the cull to be scrapped. He said: “The great bit of new information is it has now been demonstrated that the cull cannot make economic sense. It will lose the taxpayer money rather than save it.

“That was really the last shred of reason that you could give for this cull going ahead. It is a very good time for Mr Cameron to reconsider and withdraw from this monstrous cull, in the public interest.”

Badger2-500x334

60% of UK species in decline, warns new report

Image

UK nature is in trouble – that is the conclusion of a groundbreaking report published this week by a coalition of leading conservation and research organisations.

Butterflies and moths have been particularly badly affected – almost three quarters of UK butterfly species have decreased in population during the last decade and the number of the UK’s larger moths has crashed during the past 40 years.

Scientists from 25 wildlife organisations have compiled a stock take of our native species and found that 60% of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from the UK altogether.

The unique report, based on scientific analysis of tens of millions of observations from volunteers, shows that from woodland to farmland and from freshwater streams to the sea, many animals, birds, insects, fish and plants  are in trouble.

The causes include the intensification of farming, with the consequent loss of meadows, hedgerows and ponds and increased pesticide use, as well as building development, overfishing and climate change.

The State of Nature report was launched by Sir David Attenborough and UK conservation charities at the Natural History Museum in London on Wednesday, while simultaneous events were held in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

Sir David Attenborough said: “This groundbreaking report is a stark warning – but it is also a sign of hope. For 60 years I have travelled the world exploring the wonders of nature and sharing that wonder with the public. But as a boy my first inspiration came from discovering the UK’s own wildlife.

“Our islands have a rich diversity of habitats which support some truly amazing plants and animals. We should all be proud of the beauty we find on our own doorstep; from bluebells carpeting woodland floors and delicately patterned fritillary butterflies, to the graceful basking shark and the majestic golden eagle soaring over the Scottish mountains.

“This report shows that our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate. However, we have in this country a network of passionate conservation groups supported by millions of people who love wildlife. The experts have come together today to highlight the amazing nature we have around us and to ensure that it remains here for generations to come.”

Dr Mark Eaton, a lead author on the report, said: “This report reveals that the UK’s nature is in trouble – overall we are losing wildlife at an alarming rate.These declines are affecting our insects, such as our moths, butterflies and beetles, the most, but other once common species, like the lesser spotted woodpecker, barbastelle bat and hedgehog are vanishing before our eyes.

“Threats including sweeping habitat loss, changes to the way we manage our countryside, and the more recent impact of climate change, have had a major impact on our wildlife, and they are not going away.

“None of this work would have been possible without the army of volunteer wildlife enthusiasts. Our knowledge of nature in the UK would be significantly poorer without these unsung heroes. And that knowledge is the most essential tool that conservationists have.”