At what point does a species become a native species? That’s a question that’s been floating around in my mind with increasing frequency today – but does it have a definitive answer? And if not, does that really matter? The Brown Hare, for example, was introduced to Britain 2000 years ago, but many people think of them as indigenous wildlife and an iconic component of the British countryside. Fallow Deer were also brought over by the Romans around this time, yet endear themselves to many in the country. But then you have the Grey Squirrel: brought across the pond from the Eastern United States during the 1870s and demonised, justifiably, by most as an invasive species requiring eradication at a cost of many millions of pounds.
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There has been a lot of talk recently about the definition of rewilding and the apparent lack of a definitive meaning for the movement that is gaining more and more traction in the public consciousness across the world right now.
For me, it has always been clear, but not something that can be summed up in a short sentence. So in the interests of clarity, here is my interpretation for which I believe there is a strong consensus.
Rewilding at its core is about the mass restoration of ecosystems, encompassing small, medium and large scale projects where natural processes are allowed to interact without ongoing human intervention; restoring land to its uncultivated and wild state to maximise biodiversity. The media has predictably diluted this message and instead fixated on the reintroduction of lost species – but this is just one, albeit important, ingredient for achieving the rewilding ideal. However, reinstating an ecosystem’s trophic function – and by that I mean the way in which predator, prey and plants interact – is a pivotal part of the rewilding model. Continue reading Defining Rewilding→
Spent yesterday afternoon at the Argaty Red Kite hide and would highly recommend a visit to Central Scotland’s only feeding station for these impressive raptors. Situated on a working farm, it’s a great example of wildlife conservation and farming coexisting and providing a valuable source of tourism revenue to the local economy. Between 1989 and 2009, RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage conducted an ambitious reintroduction project for this severely persecuted species, having become extinct in Scotland as a breeding bird during the late 19th Century following their once widespread population becoming decimated by sporting estates, egg collectors and taxidermy. With their help, Lerrocks Farm continues to play a vital role in their revival, through supplementary feeding and education. Continue reading Red Kite Reintroduction Flying High At Argaty→
Calls from the RSPCA for the sale of Raccoon Dogs in the UK to be banned amid sporadic reports of some living wild in the country, has once again put invasive species back in the spotlight. This charismatic canid has gained a loyal following, primarily due to its endearing appearance, and can be bought online for as little as £150 – currently making it flavour of the month as an exotic pet. Whether it’s the sale online, or otherwise, of a popular exotic animal that soon becomes unwanted due to its acute unsuitability as a pet; or escapees from a wildlife park or zoo – the pattern of events is depressingly familiar and often ends in a cull instead of capture.
I recently spent a very enjoyable week wildlife-spotting on the Isle of Mull, just off the west coast of Scotland. The island’s biodiversity is excellent, primarily due to the wide variety of habitats on offer. Oak woods, coniferous forest, moorland, marshland, sandy beaches, sea lochs, machair, hill lochans, streams and rivers, mountains, estuaries and around 300 miles of coastline: Mull has it all. And the seas that surround the second largest island in the Inner Hebrides are arguably even more species-rich, with an abundance of fish, crustaceans and other marine life.
A further 23 Scimitar-horned Oryx were released into a remote part of Chad this week, as part of a long-term international conservation project to reinstate this most persecuted of antelope back into one of their historic strongholds. The species is believed to have become extinct in the wild during the early 1990s – the precise year is widely disputed – but are now showing signs of a revival following a release of an initial 23 animals last August into the same region. This was made possible after a group of 40-50 Oryx were taken from the wild into captivity in the 1960s after decades of hunting decimated their population across Northern Africa.
I was recently asked to join the SCOTLAND: THE BIG PICTURE team as a Contributing Writer and subsequently appeared in their introductory film above. As Scotland begins its rewilding journey, STBP exists as a multimedia hub combining ecological science with compelling narratives and the finest imagery to tell inspiring stories that amplify the case for a wilder Scotland.
A new study led by the Zoological Society of London [ZSL] and the Wildlife Conservation Society [WCS] has uncovered a dramatic decline in their numbers, with only around 7,100 believed to now exist in the wild. With a historic population of over 100,000 in 1900, the species is clearly now in a fragile state, amid calls for them to be reclassified by the IUCN as endangered. The reasons behind their collapse include:
This enviable title has been awarded to Manu National Park in Peru, now believed to contain the greatest variety of terrestrial species on Earth. Following exhaustive research conducted across 16 of the most biodiverse places in the world, using 60 camera traps, Manu’s pristine mosaic of 14 different ecosystems came out on top. The study was carried out by the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring [TEAM] Network, utilising systematic field station data collection procedures honed over many years to ensure the utmost veracity. Their work serves to identify trends in species diversity, which can then inform and shape conservation strategy.
This was the headline finding from the Scottish Natural Heritage [SNH] report published today, following dedicated long-term data collection primarily by volunteers with the British Trust for Ornithology [BTO] and Joint Nature Conservation Committee [JNCC] Breeding Bird Survey. Farmland bird numbers were also found to have risen substantially, whereas upland and wader species have seen considerable declines. Woodland birds with the greatest proliferations include the Great Spotted Woodpecker – up 530% – and the Chiffchaff, up an incredible 752%.