As a special edition of our monthly ARKive Geographic series, to celebrate the Olympics, we decided to take a look at some of the more unexpected species that can be found around the Olympic park and in the Greater London area.
London is the UK’s largest city, but it is also home to a wide variety of fascinating wildlife. Here’s a sample of just some of the species that have made London their home.
Famous as the world’s fastest animal, the peregrine falcon underwent serious population declines between the 1940’s and 1970’s. Due to protective legislation and the ban on organochlorine pesticides, the peregrine falcon population has recovered significantly and they have even moved into cities, using the cliff-like ledges that tall buildings provide. London has 18 known pairs nesting on famous landmarks including the Tate Modern and Houses of Parliament.
It’s not likely that you’ll catch sight of one of these slippery beasts during the Games, but the European eel will be present nearby in its watery home. This species has undergone a worrying decline across Europe and is now classified as Critically Endangered (CR) by the IUCN. Numbers of European eels recorded crashed by 98% between 2005 and 2010, but there is still a population hanging on in the Thames. The Thames Estuary was classified as biologically dead in the 1960’s and the European eel was one of the first fish to be recorded in the area once the water quality began to improve.
Further proof of the rejuvenation of the Thames over the last 50 years is the presence of a more exotic sounding fish. In 2008 the Zoological Society London reported that short-snouted seahorse’s had been recorded several times during routine monitoring of the Thames. One location where this species has been recorded is near Dagenham in East London – only a few miles east of the Olympic Park.
The stag beetle is the UK’s largest and most spectacular beetle. London, particularly the South London boroughs of Lewisham, Croyden and Bromley, is its major stronghold. After spending around 4 years as larvae, munching on rotting wood, adult stag beetles are relatively short-lived surviving only for a matter of months. Male stag beetles wrestle using their large mandibles to decide who gets to mate with the smaller females.
London is home to many species of bat including the noctule bat, one of Europe’s largest bats. The noctule bat is one of the first bats to appear in the evening, occasionally even before the sun sets and can be found in Greenwich Park and Hyde Park, both home to Olympic events this summer.
The UK’s largest native land animal, the red deer, can also be found in London. A herd can be found in Bushy Park, near the Olympic cycling time-trial event in Hampton Court Palace.
London is home to many more species that the keen-eyed will be sure to spot in London during August. Kingfishers dart along watercourses, water voles inhabit river banks, foxes stalk the streets. If you’re in London this summer and see any interesting species let us know via Twitter, Facebook or post a message in the box below.
Eleanor Sans, ARKive Media Researcher