Updated: Aug 2, 2020
According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), between 1970 and 2013, 56% of UK species has declined in the UK.
Here is a list of some of the worst affected species across the UK
The Scottish Wildcat.
The Scottish Wildcat is the only remaining wildcat in the UK today. It is classified as critically endangered with population estimates ranging from between 35 to a few hundred. They used to be found living across the whole of the UK but are now only found in the Scottish Highlands. The Scottish Wildcat Association run a Wildcat Conservation Scheme for people to report sightings to help them carry out their conservation work. A loss of habitat and inter-breeding with domestic cats are thought to be driving the decline.
Some estimates suggest the Hazel Dormouse population has halved in the past 19 years with a continuing trend of decline of about 3.8% per year. These nocturnal creatures are found in the most southerly parts of the UK and they are protected in the UK by the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Their woodland habitat is reducing in size and becoming fragmented due to expanding human populations. It is this loss of habitat that is thought to be driving their decline.
One of the UK's rarest birds, now only found in Scotland having died out in Ireland and Belgium over the last few centuries. Having gone extinct in the UK once in the 1700's and having been reintroduced in 1837 in Perthshire, these birds are now facing their second threat of extinction due to increased predation from foxes and crows alongside increased forestation and habitat loss.
Across the UK, populations of Red Squirrel varies from near endangered in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to locally common in Scotland. They are threatened by the introduction of Grey Squirrels from America who carry a disease that kills red squirrels and who also decimate their food supply. Red squirrels can be elusive and spend most of their time in the canopy of trees. They do not hibernate over winter but they do become much less active and live predominantly off stored fungi to help them through the colder months.
Beloved bird immortalised in the "Twelve Days of Christmas". Turtle Doves are one of, if not the most, endangered bird species in the UK with between a 93-98% drop in population (depending on which report you read) since the 1970's. The vast majority of that decline took place between 2013-2015 with a huge 51% drop in numbers. They are ecologically unique in that they are Europe's only migratory dove. The loss of their breeding habitat and subsequent loss of food is said to be driving the UK population decline. These birds overwinter in Africa and there too, they have suffered a loss of breeding grounds and are also threatened by hunters, further driving their decline.
According to the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species, Hedgehogs are listed as a species of principal importance to protect after a dramatic decline in population. Reasons for their reducing numbers include climate change, agricultural intensification, increased numbers of badgers and an increase in traffic an specifically traffic related deaths.
Some good news..
It isn't all doom and gloom though. The UK has some amazing success stories about UK wildlife that is being brought back from the brink of extinction. Here are just a few examples.
The Red Kite was almost extinct within the UK in the 19th Century with the exception of a carefully protected population in Wales. Today, they have been successfully re-introduced to various parts of the UK with about 1800 breeding pairs now recorded across the Country. This contrasts significantly to the 1990's when it was thought that there were only around 100 breeding pairs.
Photo Credit: Gabriele Lasser, Pixabay
25 years ago, the UK Otter population was critically endangered due to chemical pollution of our water courses which drastically reduced the otters food supply. Today, you can now find Otters in every British County.
In all of these cases, human activity, both at home and around the world, has played a key role in the decline of our native wildlife species. The 5 key issues that typically affect UK wildlife include: Agricultural intensification destroying habitats; plastics; climate change; river damage and pesticides. But we can also see from these cases that human activity plays a crucial role in their conservation and recovery too. If only we, as a species, invested time and effort into protecting our eco-systems, natural resources and wildlife when we pursue development and progress to prevent the decline in the first place, the world would be a much better and healthier place.
Scottish Wildcat http://www.scottishwildcataction.org/about-wildcats/