One in five of UK mammals are at risk of extinction, according to new research from the Mammal Society and Natural England. The red squirrel, wildcat and the grey long-eared bat are among 12 species added to a ‘red list’ for wild mammals in the UK.
Multiple factors are contributing to this statistic, with climate change, loss of habitat, use of pesticides and disease responsible. For example, the grey long-eared bat thrives in wild meadows, and in recent years the UK has lost over 90 per cent of wildflower meadows, with harsh consequences on the eco-system as a result.
In the last 20 years, the hedgehog and water vole population has declined by 70 per cent; however, some species have increased. Otters, pine martens, polecats and badgers have seen a population increase and have been spreading further around the UK.
This report is the first inclusive review of the population of British mammals for the past 20 years, with over 1.5 million individual records of 58 species of native mammal examined. Researchers studied whether there was a rise or fall in population, the extent of their geographical range and a forecast for their future prospects.
The species at risk of extinction have been ranked using the criteria from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). When species make it on to this list, it means that it faces extinction within the next ten years. The highest threat is ‘critically endangered’, with the wildcat, the greater mouse-eared bat and the black rat making this category.
Red squirrels, beavers, water voles and grey long-eared bats are classified as ‘endangered’, and hedgehogs, hazel dormouse, Orkney vole, serotine bat and barbastelle bat are listed ‘vulnerable’.
Prof. Fiona Matthews, chairwoman of the Mammal Society said: “This is the first time anyone has looked across all species for about 20 years. Now obviously we’re living in a country that’s changing enormously – we’re building new homes, new roads, new railways, agriculture’s changing – so it’s really important we have up to date information so we can plan how we’re going to conserve British wildlife.”