When you hear the phrase ‘endangered animals’ you probably think of Africa or Asia. What you may not realise is that many animals indigenous to the UK are also in danger and could become extinct unless the right action is taken. Here are just three examples.
The dormouse has been in decline for many years. It lives in woodland and hedgerows, eating mainly nuts and berries, particularly hazelnuts. Much of this favoured habitat has disappeared, particularly due to changes in farming and forestry practice, and it has become difficult for the dormouse to find food.
One way of creating the habitat the dormouse needs is to coppice hazel woodland. The trees are cut near to the ground, and then allowed to grow again, encouraging a diversity of habitats including that favoured by the dormouse. Coppicing is no longer commercial forestry practice, except for chestnut coppices, but some conservation organisations are now introducing hazel coppices to encourage dormouse numbers to grow.
There are estimated to be over 1 million hedgehogs in England, so it is not a rare species and you may be surprised to find it in this article. If you go for a long drive, the chances are you will see one, albeit squashed in the road!
That, of course, is part of the problem. Hedgehogs have large territories, which often extend over several busy roads. As the hedgehog is nocturnal and crosses the road at night, it is often run over unseen. In some areas the local council has created ‘hedgehog crossings’, which are pipes passing under the road. The hedgehogs seem to use these crossings, so this strategy is of some help.
Despite the fairly large population now, the hedgehog has been in serious decline since the 1960’s. Unless more is done it could die out within the next 10 to 15 years.
One reason for the decline besides road deaths, is the increase in the use of modern fences. These do not allow the hedgehog to pass between different areas of its territory to find food and a mate. More widespread use of decking stops it from digging for worms or finding nesting places.
A very simple way of reversing this trend is for home owners to make their gardens a more suitable environment for hedgehogs. A number of societies encourage this, including the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
An article on declining animals in the UK would not be complete without mention of the red squirrel.
One of the main reasons for the decline of this animal is the introduction of the North American grey squirrel. The grey is far more efficient than its red cousin in finding food. More importantly, though, the grey squirrel carries the squirrel parapoxvirus disease. This does not seem to hurt the grey squirrel, but is often fatal for the red squirrel.
Reducing the number of grey squirrels can halt the decline in the red squirrel population. This has already been done very successfully in Anglesey, and programmes of this kind are being introduced in other parts of the country.
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/923531
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1406940
Colin is writing on behalf of UK and Europe veterinary equipment manufacturer and supplier www.teknomek.co.uk. Teknomek have been manufacturing stainless steel products for the veterinary industry for over 25yrs.