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.
Continue reading Native State
Golden Toad. Charles H. Smith. Wikimedia Creative Commons
Today’s contemplation arose after reading about the sad demise of Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog. The inevitability of this species’ extinction was particularly grim – but by no means unusual or surprising given the general health of amphibian populations across the world right now. They face unprecedented threats that include: fungal diseases, habitat modification and fragmentation, pollution and chemical contamination, climate change and ultraviolet radiation. Now almost half of all amphibian species are experiencing a population decline, with over a third threatened with extinction. Most alarmingly of all, at least 160 species are believed to have become extinct during the last two decades. Continue reading The Amphibian Extinction Crisis
As someone who has followed the rewilding debate with increasing interest over the last few years, I was recently struck by how polarised the discourse has become. The ‘roots’ of rewilding appear to have been consumed by the attention-grabbing headlines of keystone species and apex predator reintroductions. Generally speaking, there has been a tendency for the media to fixate on this, along with the social and cultural implications. Meanwhile, the fundamental principles and common sense conservation practices that underpin rewilding are often lost or overlooked in the ensuing fallout. Continue reading The Essence of Rewilding
It was encouraging to read recently about a hydropower project in Macedonia likely to be abandoned in order to protect the critically endangered Balkan Lynx and its precious habitat. In an age when putting wildlife before infrastructure and economic development is a rarity, this was heartening news. It got me thinking, it surely is time that nature becomes a priority and that social and economic development takes a back seat – in developed countries at least – to allow our natural world to recover from centuries of human encroachment, interference and contamination, and regenerate accordingly. A quixotic notion, yes; but a necessary step given that we appear to be at an ecological tipping point, in a situation that is anything but balanced.
Today’s cogitation came about after spending some time on Jon Hall’s fascinating Mammal Watching blog. It got me thinking, why does mammal watching not enjoy the same level of interest and profile that bird watching attracts? As a mammal enthusiast, who’s interested in all forms of creature, I find this rather mystifying. For me, the sheer morphological and behavioural variety of mammals is intrinsically interesting; so why is the spotting of them often in the shadow of the ornithological equivalent? Continue reading Marvellous Mammals
Few species polarise opinion more than the Giant Panda. On the one hand, it’s endearing features and inherent charisma ensures that it receives adoration across the world, yet it’s also at the receiving end of much resentment, particularly from conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts – including myself – who feel it receives a vastly disproportionate amount of conservation income to enable its fragile existence to continue. This got me thinking: how many other species have benefited from giant panda conservation. To what extent is it justified; is it a cost and time effective means of conservation?
Continue reading The Umbrella Effect
I’ve been reading more and more about the correlation between biodiversity and ecosystem health: the more species there are, the healthier the habitat. This might sound like a very obvious observation, however, it’s an often overlooked fact. Against the bleak backdrop of Britain’s depleted native wildlife, it got me thinking; has the conservation community’s reaction to invasive species been too alarmist? I think it has, and with good reason. Our habitats have been so degraded that the introduction of an ‘alien’ species, such as American Mink, was always going to cause havoc with our precariously poised ecology.
Continue reading Embrace The Invasive?
Today’s contemplation was triggered by yesterday evening’s wander into our local wood, where we encountered a roe deer, fox, badger, bat and tawny owl within just 30 minutes! The joy of watching the deer leaping and barking over the hilltop, witnessing the fox in zen-like hunting mode, being just a few feet from a young badger in the undergrowth, or having a bat fly within a few inches of my face, amounted to an absorbing top-up of my reconnection with local wildlife. But what if you don’t seek out, or stumble upon these sightings – do you then lose your connection with, and care of, nature and its wildlife?
Continue reading Reconnecting With Nature
Found myself reminiscing today about a trip to Tasmania in 2006, and specifically, time spent exploring the Cradle Mountain National Park. The fond memories have been intertwined with an increasing disillusionment I have with the habitats and wildlife in my home country of Scotland, where experiencing wild animal encounters are a rarity and biodiversity is in short supply, particularly in relation to mammals. The variety, although severely lacking compared with many other countries, isn’t the main problem – it’s the sparse distribution of much of the fauna and the lack of habitat connectivity.
Continue reading A Yearning For Rewilding
Today’s ponderment has been floating around in my head for a while, and revolves around my growing belief that there’s too much anthropomorphism creeping in to wildlife filmmaking. But am I right to think this? Does the attribution of human traits and behaviours onto animals have its place in shaping the narrative and help to capture the viewer’s imagination? Or is it a detrimental distraction which dilutes our ability to understand the important scientific information and conservation messages being conveyed? Continue reading The Trouble With Anthropomorphism