The ugly, the bad and the good

Tuesday 28 May 2013, 15:32

Chris Packham Chris Packham Presenter

The State of Nature report was for many a tough read. The statistics are frankly horrifying.

In very short form, 60% of species in decline, 30% seriously so and 13% in danger of extinction. So you may wonder why I was so pleased to see it printed and publicised. Well, I've thought that for too long we've needed just such a short sharp shock because we've been to easily distracted from this horror show by our accomplished but seemingly insignificant successes in conservation. Yes, we've been making a difference but not on a scale that clearly counts. And truthfully a walk through the UK countryside has become progressively quieter and less rewarding but we have all been to scared to admit it. But now the writing is on the wall, plain and clear - we are presiding over the destruction and decay of our green and pleasant land and I for one am not happy about it.

So what can we do? Firstly read the report, man-up and face the grim reality, then rejoice that the vast majority of the declines and problems are very well understood. You see, if we know why a species or habitat is imperilled then in most instances we have a good idea of how to fix the problem. And we do... the trouble is that those problems are big ones.

We can no longer be satisfied by buying a few more reserves, re-introducing a couple more animals with big, expensive and flashy projects or simply stumping up our memberships and hoping that someone is out there patching it up. No, we have to raise our game, start to demand better service and better results from all our agencies and begin to sculpt a body of decision makers who are better informed, genuinely motivated and brave enough to turn things around.

Key targets - urgent and decisive reform of farming and fisheries policies in tandem with far enhanced support of our farmers and fishermen. Reform of forestry practices and the serious criminalisation of those who harm wildlife. We should implement national quotas of wildlife and begin to measure its yields and then seriously reward those who meet the targets. Agricultural subsidies should need earning.

But what can we do? Pick up the keypad or the pen and write to the wildlife charities that you support and tell them you want more results, less small successes and more bigger picture action. Then double the number of your nestboxes, put in a pond, plant some nectar-full species and keep your cats in at night. There's nothing wrong with making a difference on the home-front. Your wildlife needs you more than ever so lets go to it!


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    Comment number 1.

    There is never really a lot talked about when it comes to amphibians

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    Comment number 2.

    Will you feature more on amphibians in the future ?

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    Comment number 3.

    getting rid of this government, who have persistantly promoted the persecution of wildlife, even dealing with the public outcry over the defra ministers using public money to persecute raptors, under the guise of research, by stopping the research and simply allowing the persecution to go ahead anyway.

    you can play your part, the people of reading more than any others in the country, get rid of benyon. now. you voted him in. you can remove him,

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    Comment number 4.

    Why don't the charities come together and make on large body. This would carry more weight and strength. After all we are all singing from the same hymn sheet arn't we?

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    Comment number 5.

    I'll raise this now even though I know you will at some point. What about the badgers? Bovine TB is a dreadful problem but culling healthy animals against the scientific evidence is no solution. The only answer in the long term has got be immunization. We have to devote our limited resources to finding an effective vaccine and cancel this pointless, misguided and divisive cull!

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    Comment number 6.

    Wildlife is certainly under threat but until a few moments ago i thought it was mainly from mankind. I have just watched on our bird box camera a swallow throw eggs out of the nest!! Not sure if this is the parents or competition from other swallows. anyone else noticed this?

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    Comment number 7.

    I do all the things Chris recommends and feel totally helpless as all my letters to my MP are ignored or treated with disdain. The current government's policies towards planning, badger culling, supposed conservation, high speed railway building etc. are ruining our natural environment and wildlife. Also, I live in the country and have to watch people shooting or hunting anything they want, it seems, while I am trying to conserve wildlife. It seems anyone can get a gun license. There are so many ways the government could help wildlife but they do nothing it seems.

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    Comment number 8.

    If only we could make one very strong conservative effort to bring nature back in a good shape I for one let my garden be a garden to hell with sprays or thinking about what is eating this or that I simply let nature run my garden

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    Comment number 9.

    I have seen the country side a buzz with all the splendid sound of bird song or hares boxing and partridge flying up when you get to close and near scare you to death with the buzzing sound they make when spooked i'm 56 now, and looking at or not looking at the life that used to be in abundance when i was young and summer was summer, the blame has got to be with all political parties who only use wild life issues to further their own interests and then ditch the real issues, we all no this and yet it's the minority that make a stance while the rest of us sit back and say things like "WHY DON'T WE DO SOMETHING REAL" sadly i am one of these arm chair critics..

    of all party's why don't they just do what is

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    Comment number 10.

    why not try educating developers about what effects they can have on the wildlife ,weather it be good or bad .My local pit stack is constantley being scapped back but what they don't realise is that there are nesting birds on the on there ranging from short eared owls ringed,little ringed plover ,lapwings yellow wagtails wheatears and more i personally have seen nest destroyed through ignorance .Perhaps if they were not allowed to scrape dump or build on these sites till at least breeding season is over to give the wildlife a chance

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    Comment number 11.

    Viewing nature at close quarters can be difficult to bear at times!. I have a nest box with a camera, we have a perfect spot where blue-tits have always nested and fledged from an old box and now they have the camera box too which I can view on my kitchen t v! They have nested in here for the last 3 years -(last year a bumble bee disturbed their building and they left ) but this is the first year that eggs have hatched. 8 eggs were laid on 30th April with 2 very attentive parents, I think I identified one as doing most of the sitting, presumably the female. On 16th May, 8 tiny worm like babies hatched (one didn't survive at the early stage and was removed ) with the parents constantly back and forwards tending to them, feeding them and still sitting on the nest keeping them warm - absolutely amazing to watch. Sometimes the parents would look totally exhausted and just flop down on top of the nest, wet and bedraggled! I must admit that they didn't seem to have much in their beaks to feed with when 7 beaks started to open like little trumpets. One by one the beaks stopped opening and it was only after a day of heavy rain followed by sun that any real beakfuls of caterpillars started arriving! by this time I think it was too late and yesterday there was only one chick left which seemed very sluggish! First thing this morning I saw the adult balanced on my washing line with a mouth full of caterpillar, quickly switched on the tv only to see her poking it around the bottom of the nest trying to feed, but the last chick had obviously died! Just one of the saddest sights!

    Is this just about the climate do you think? My garden is full of families of birds, blackbirds, thrushes starlings and loads of sparrows - but alas no blue tits this year! Also, is there any point in clearing out the box and hoping for a second brood!

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    Comment number 12.

    In response to no. 10, Barnsley birder, I think that most developers just don't care about anything other than profit. Educating them would probably be impossible - they could well know what they are doing but really don't bother. Legislation is the only effective measure and no authority seems keen to implement it. Apathy about letting developers, planners, builders, farmers, etc. do whatever they like is ruining the country for the rest of us who value wildlife.

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    Comment number 13.

    We are members of the RSPB, BTO and Wildlife Trust. We have in our garden, bird feeders, nest boxes, bird baths, shrubs with berries for birds, shrubs with flowers for bees, a log pile and a large pond. We have a Fox who currently has 6 cubs and this is the 3rd year she has bred in our garden. We have also given up a quarter of our garden to Badgers as we have part of their sett in it. They dig it up and damage our fence on a nightly basis and we put up with it all for the love of them and nature in general. Where does this get us though? We have a Government who undermine our efforts by showing complete disregard for wildlife and ignore the title 'protected species' when they choose yet expect everyone else to adhere to the law. I have never felt so disheartened.

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    Comment number 14.

    My father and myself live opposite farmland, which attracts a variety of wildlife. However, its not just the Government, which seem to be against wildlife. Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, which is Labour-controlled, have just produced a Local Borough Plan. They have earmarked, all of this farmland for housing, and are aiming to build 3000 houses. This farmland, also once had a small copse, and a lot of trees, as well as a spring-filled pond. That has now all gone, leaving just a few trees. The birds that were nesting in those trees, are now in our garden, plus the gardens of our neighbours. Old farm buildings which once housed nesting swallows and house martins, have also been demolished. The County Council have also said that as far as grass verges are concerned, road safety is more important than wildflowers. As this farmland is leased to the farmer, that farmer has no control over its future. So as far as protecting and encouraging wildlife, the residents of North Warwickshire are fighting a losing battle with developers,the local Council and the County Council.

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    Comment number 15.

    Town planning with reintroduction of the idea of Green Corridors, reinstating green belts and radical rethinking of urban areas is needed.
    It would help wildlife but would also make healthier environments for people.
    Because of no tax on new builds our town centres rot whilst green fields disappear endlessly.
    Thoughtless acts such as gravelling, mono blocking and paving over garden spaces makes the survival of insects, wild birds, bats impossible.
    Their is a fashion for sanitising nature and green spaces that needs to stop.

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    Comment number 16.

    I live on the Isle of Wight, a large area at the back of Ryde has proposed planning for over 1000 homes. I phoned our local environment department to inform them that great crested newts inhabit that area. The chap spoke to me as if I was an idiot and according to him they hadn't been there for some years. When I told him I'd seen them a few days before he insisted I was mistaken. I explained exactly what I'd seen and went as far as to describe the gc newt and that I knew the difference between the two. This man still insisted I was mistaken. With people like this working for council 'environmental' departments I'm not surprised by the report. The area also has a variety of orchids and a wonderful array of wild flowers, no doubt if I were to go down there and dig a few up I'd be prosecuted !

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    Comment number 17.

    I agree with Chris. We need to see more for our money.

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    Comment number 18.

    I agree with Diane ... it is so disheartening to feel like your own personal attempts to help nature are going to waste. But the wildlife charities HAVE to be stronger and more forceful about promoting change on our behalf. The sad fact is that no government, from any of the main political parties, will ever put any major effort into conservation without being pressured into it ... because there is simply no profit to be made and only a limited number of votes to be gained.

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    Comment number 19.

    I agree with Chris.
    Getting rid off this government might help.
    But most politicians are only out to line their own pockets.
    They don't care about conservation.

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    Comment number 20.

    I live in the country but sadly its quickly becoming developed and lost no end of the countryside fields have gone trees ripped out. Lets put up thousands of houses instead doesnt matter if lizards birds insects animals etc etc already own it lets evict them and wipe them out to make us richer NOT. What on earth are we doing to our planet or our own country. Man cant leave anything alone apart from wiping out many species. Sadly i think we are a minority and nothing will be done i really hope im wrong. I have written to many organizations as i do go fishing and fed up with the state of our rivers they are in such a mess and all i got told was to go to an agm meeting and they couldnt even tell me when it was they didnt want to know. Very frustrating. I sit there and watch so many birds making nests and feeding there young and have had the kingfishers sitting on my rods and seen so many wildlife and have had some great moments no matter what the weather is doing. I have also got in touch with some celebs but i understand how busy they are but the common person has no clout where as celebs do get more attention and take notice of i think we all need to block london and hold it up so we all get heard of so many things that is going on the french get heard when they do it so why cant we. this could go on for ages me ranting on but what can we do!!!!!!


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