The INDEPENDENT reports more jet-skiers, kayakers, boat-trippers and drones are alarming dolphins and seals. Wildlife experts have celebrated “extraordinary” sightings of Scottish bottlenose dolphins off the Yorkshire coast – thought to be the farthest south that they have ever been spotted on the UK’s east coast. They have also discovered a seal “commuting” between the Isle of Man and Cornwall to have pups and search for food. But the discoveries – among the success stories for UK marine life in 2019 – were marred by finding that a greater number of jet skiers, kayakers and boat-trippers, as well as drones, were causing the marine mammals to panic.
The Guardian, The Times, and The Telegraph report three families of beavers are to be introduced on land managed by the National Trust as part of plans to ease flooding and improve biodiversity. Two Eurasian beaver families will be released next spring into enclosures at Holnicote estate on Exmoor, in Somerset, and another group will arrive at Valewood on the Black Down estate, on the border of West Sussex and Surrey.
Beavers were hunted to extinction 400 years ago in the UK for their fur, meat and scent glands. In recent years there has been a series of controlled reintroductions, including one by the government in the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire, as solutions are sought to tackle flooding.
Photo by Pat Gaines under Creative Commons.
BBC NEWS reports culling badgers drives them to roam further afield, allowing them to disperse tuberculosis over a larger area, new research suggests. The culls might thus increase the risk of TB spreading to cattle, the scientists behind the study warn. The review urged the government to explore alternative approaches to culling. It was led by zoologist Sir Charles Godfray, from Oxford University.
Photo by Tim Brookes under creative commons.
THE TELEGRAPH, BBC, THE TIMES, INEWS, INDEPENDENT, CHANNEL 4 NEWS report the Wild Cat and Greater Mouse-eared Bat are among those species teetering on the edge of disappearing, according to the State of Nature Report 2019, the first of its kind conducted in partnership with the government. Other mammals in decline include the European Watervole, the Eurasian beaver, the European hegehog, the Orkney vole and the hazel dormouse.
Nature is in decline, the wide-ranging survey has found, and 41 per cent of UK species studied have noticeably fewer numbers than when rigorous scientific study began in the 1970s. Additionally, 15 per cent of species – nearly 1,200 – are threatened with extinction from Great Britain, because of intensive agriculture and climate change.
The BBC and TELEGRAPH reports one of Britain’s rarest mammals has been re-established the wild in England and given protected status. A population of 18 pine martens has been successfully released in the Forest of Dean. The animal had faced extinction in this country because of extensive hunting and loss of English woodland.
The Telegraph reports all the evidence points to a big decline in hedgehog numbers over the past 50 years or so. The good news is that the decline in urban hedgehogs appears to have slowed, and there are even signs that they may be increasing in towns and cities.
Since the main habitat used by hedgehogs in towns is private gardens, that means gardeners who want to help them (which is surely all of us) have a big responsibility.
The Guardian reports TB infections in cattle blight farms and cost taxpayers more than £100m a year in compensation payments. But scientists and conservationists oppose the cull, saying there is little evidence it is effective and is being badly run.
“The culls have expanded to unimaginable scales, covering an area larger than Israel,” said Prof Rosie Woodroffe, an ecologist at the Zoological Society of London, one of the team that conducted the earlier large-scale trial.“ I cannot understand why the government has permitted this massive expansion of badger culling, when it has not yet responded to the Godfray Review it commissioned and received nearly a year ago,” she said.“ The review concluded the government and farming industry were paying far too much attention to badger management, and far too little attention to cattle-to-cattle transmission, which is responsible for the majority of TB incidents in cattle.”
Photo by Tim Brookes under creative commons.
The Telegraph report hedgehogs are dying because people are leaving netting out in their gardens, the RSPCA has warned.
The leading animal charity says that dozens of the small, spikey mammals have become entangled in football, badminton and pond nets causing fatal injuries and urged people to pack their equipment away.
The BBC reports up to 9,000 of badgers are likely to have suffered “immense pain” in culls to control cattle TB, according to a former government adviser.
Prof Ranald Munro is the ex-Chair of an independent expert group appointed by the government to assess its trials. He has written to Natural England to say that the policy is causing “huge suffering”. He adds that the culls are not reducing TB in cattle and in one area the incidence of the disease has gone up.
The culls began in 2012 following appeals from cattle farmers whose livelihoods are continuing to be damaged by the spread of TB.
Badger photo by Sally Langstaff under creative commons.
The BBC report leaving hedgerows untouched can offer an important lifeline for night-time biodiversity, such as bats. A study says schemes designed to make farming more wildlife-friendly often failed to offer any real benefits.