Still reeling from the exotic delights of Planet Earth II, I think it’s time for some grounding and home truths. The truth is, our native wildlife is amazing. I visited the BWC (British Wildlife Centre) in Surrey to learn more about our own ecology.
The fox is one of our most dividing species. We have persecuted them for sport, demonized them in literature and forced them into a life of darkness and scavenging. These animals are hunters, beautiful and successful hunters.
In the wild, foxes only live to an average of 2-4 years. This is because we have made it so difficult for them. In captivity, red foxes can live for up to 15 years. It’s not really something we can do a lot about. Most wild foxes are hit by cars (one would assume accidentally) or struck down by mange. I am frozen in awe everytime I catch a glimpse of this beautiful beast, even if it is legging it down the road with half the contents of my neighbour’s bin.
Native or otherwise, squirrels are a treat to watch. Not living on the Isle of Wight, I don’t have the luxury of seeing the reds in the wild, but at the BWC these little characters hop about, taking no notice of the gawking tourists (me).
The main threat to red squirrels is disease, specifically squirrel poxvirus carried by greys. Some areas in the UK are doing great work to win back some ground for the reds, and it looks like this is one endangered species that is hanging on by its tough little whiskers.
I grew up near a river that was and still is home to a family of otters. I have never actually seen an otter there, but I have often found… evidence of them.
Otters are a real success story for our native wildlife. It is likely that in the next twenty or so years, every stream in the UK could be home to its own family. That is due to the tireless conservation efforts of passionate people, clearing and cleaning up our waters.
In the 1960s, buzzard populations in the UK were in a bad state. Myxomatosis rid their hunting grounds of prey animals and their numbers crashed.
Numbers remained low until the 1990s (when gamekeepers stopped killing them). Since then, buzzards have boomed and can now be found in every county in the UK. These birds are some of my favourite to watch. Last summer, I was lucky enough to watch an aerial display of a buzzard being mobbed by 5 or 6 crows. The buzzard barrel rolled and loop the looped over an estuary to evade the crows as they relentlessly pestered him. Long live the buzzard.
The stories of our native neighbours are mixed in fortune. When we welcome animals into our world, they thrive and the reward of seeing such creatures can’t be surpassed. If we can nurture a love for living things in our young, the sky is the limit for our natives. Planet earth starts outside your door.
‘The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.’ – Darwin.