May 22
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In the News: Nature health check finds UK wildlife to be in trouble

A groundbreaking study by the UK’s leading wildlife organisations has found that 60% of the species in the region are in decline.

Common seal image

The common or harbour seal has declined by nearly a third in Scottish waters as a result of pollution, disease and lack of food

Health check for UK wildlife

In the first study of its kind in the UK, scientists from 25 wildlife organisations, including the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, RSPB, Buglife and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, joined forces to undertake a health check of nature in the UK and its Overseas Territories. The final report has revealed startling results, with a large proportion of UK species showing declines over recent decades, and more than one in ten of all the species assessed being at risk of disappearing from the UK altogether.

The ‘State of Nature’ report will be launched by UK conservation charities at the Natural History Museum in London this evening, with the help of Sir David Attenborough, who highlighted the incredible diversity found on UK shores. “Our islands have a rich diversity of habitats which support some truly amazing plants and animals,” he said. “We should all be proud of the beauty we find on our own doorstep; from bluebells carpeting woodland floors and delicately patterned fritillary butterflies, to the graceful basking shark and the majestic golden eagle soaring over the Scottish mountains.”

Golden eagle image

Illegal killing, disturbance and intensive management practices threaten the majestic golden eagle and other animals

Assessments

The State of Nature report looked at the UK’s major taxonomic groups and habitat types, from woodland and farmland to wetlands and coastal areas, in an attempt to formulate an accurate representation of the situation across the UK’s four constituent countries. Data on trends in abundance and distribution of 3,148 species were collected, but while this is an impressive feat, it represents just 5% of the estimated 59,000 or more terrestrial and freshwater species in the UK. Yet 60% of these species were found to have declined over the last 50 years, and 31% have declined strongly.

As part of the study, a new Watchlist Indicator was developed, which measures how conservation priority species are faring, based on a set of 155 of the UK’s most threatened and vulnerable species for which there is sufficient data. Worryingly, the indicator shows that overall numbers of these species have declined by 77% in the last four decades, with little sign of recovery.

Ascension frigatebird image

The Ascension frigatebird is a UKOT endemic which has benefitted from conservation action

UK Overseas Territories

The report has also embraced and highlighted the wealth of globally important wildlife found in the UK’s Overseas Territories, from the Caribbean to the Antarctic. A worrying 90 species from these areas were found to be at high risk of global extinction. The incredible array of species found within these regions, from elephant seals and penguins to parrots and iguanas, includes some 180 endemic plants, 22 endemic birds, 34 endemic reptiles and amphibians, and an impressive 685 endemic terrestrial invertebrates – 16 times the number found in the UK.

Taxonomic groups

When looking at the results of the study by taxonomic group, it becomes clear that some groups are faring far worse than others. Invertebrate groups appear to be struggling the most, with a reported 65% decline in moths.

This report reveals that the UK’s nature is in trouble – overall we are losing wildlife at an alarming rate,” said Dr Mark Eaton, a lead author on the report. “These declines are happening across all countries and UK Overseas Territories, habitats and species groups, although it is probably greatest amongst insects, such as our moths, butterflies and beetles. Other once common species like the lesser spotted woodpecker, barbastelle bat and hedgehog are vanishing before our eyes.”

Heath fritillary image

The heath fritillary is one of the UK’s rarest butterflies

Continued pressure, but increasing hope

Pressures on the UK’s wildlife, from climate change to pollution and habitat loss, continue to grow. However, with the alarming results of The State of Nature report comes a positive message, with conservationists and wildlife organisations rising to the challenge to protect, reintroduce and translocate species, and to create and restore dwindling habitats where resources allow.

Sir David has described the groundbreaking study as both a stark warning and a sign of hope, saying, “For 60 years I have travelled the world exploring the wonders of nature and sharing that wonder with the public. But as a boy my first inspiration came from discovering the UK’s own wildlife. This report shows that our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate. However, we have in this country a network of passionate conservation groups supported by millions of people who love wildlife. The experts have come together today to highlight the amazing nature we have around us and to ensure that it remains here for generations to come.”

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

Oct 28
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Spotlight on: Sir David Attenborough

David Attenborough photoSir David Attenborough, Britain’s best-known natural history film-maker, once again took to our screens across the UK this week, presenting and narrating the BBC’s latest landmark series Frozen Planet. Unsurprisingly, this latest installment from Sir David drew in viewing figures of around 6.8 million, and critics have been united in their praise for the opening episode. The Frozen Planet website reveals that although Sir David first visited Antarctica 17 years ago, filming for Frozen Planet was his first ever visit to the geographical North Pole.

Now at the age of 85, and having begun his broadcasting career over half a century ago, Attenborough’s spectacular series for the BBC are surely responsible for many people’s passion for wildlife. In 1982, David Attenborough received the Panda Award for Outstanding Achievement at the Wildscreen Festival, and was knighted for his services to broadcasting in 1985.

Life on Earth was the first of David’s epic Life series, and told the story of the evolution of life on the planet within thirteen 50-minute programmes. Universally acclaimed by both press and public, it remains to this day the series that David is the most proud of and that has given him most satisfaction. In 1984, The Living Planet was screened, which surveyed the natural world from an ecological point of view and this was followed by the conclusion to the trilogy in 1990 – The Trials of Life, which dealt with animal behaviour.

David Attenborough photo

David Attenborough photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sir David’s passion for the natural world is clear, and Wildscreen is fortunate enough to have him on board as a Patron, make sure you check out his video introduction to ARKive. We are even lucky enough to include a couple of his own photographs in our collection.

Indri photoVerreaux's sifaka photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can read more about Sir David’s work on the WildFilmHistory website, another of Wildscreen’s initiatives, where you can explore the history of wildlife filmmaking, with ’behind the scenes’ photographs, essential production information, and a unique collection of oral histories, including one from Sir David himself.

Frozen Planet continues next Wednesday at 9pm on BBC One for viewers in the UK. You can check out our blog on the first episode, and let us know your thoughts by posting comments, or joining in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

Jul 18
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The Big Butterfly Count 2011

The exciting big butterfly count takes place in the UK this month from 16th – 31st July and invites novices and experts alike to help out in a nationwide survey of some of our spectacular butterflies. By doing this the organisers, Butterfly Conservation, are aiming to create important records of how healthy our butterfly populations, and therefore habitats, are. Last year a staggering 10,000 people took part counting an amazing 210,000 butterflies and day-flying moths.

Comma butterfly image

Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album) on flower

With over half of the UK’s 60 resident butterfly species currently threatened with extinction, the big butterfly count has the full backing of Wildscreen patron Sir David Attenborough, who had the following to say:

“Butterflies are one of the stars of the British countryside. Summer just wouldn’t be summer without them. But they continue to be in long-term decline. I urge everyone, young and old, to take part in the Big Butterfly Count to help us assess the fortunes of these bewitching creatures.”

Common blue butterfly image

Male common blue butterfly

Meadow brown butterfly image

Meadow brown butterfly

Get Involved

To take part, all you need is 15 minutes on a bright, preferably sunny, day and the free big butterfly count downloadable butterfly ID chart. You then simply count how many of each species you see and record you sightings online! Check out the big butterfly count ‘how to’ section for further details on how to carry out your survey. Some of the star participants of your survey might include the red admiral, small tortoiseshell, common blue or green hairstreak butterfly.

Green hairstreak butterfly image

Green hairstreak butterfly

Fancy joining in? Let us know how you get on!

For more information on butterfly conservation, visit the butterfly conservation website.

Fancy finding out more about other marvellous mini-beasts? Take a look at our new education resource.

Becky Moran,  ARKive Media Researcher

May 12
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Celebrate ARKive’s 8th birthday – vote for your favourite species

Photo of a brown bear showing tongue

Bonkers about brown bears? Vote for them in our birthday poll!

Crazy for coconut crabs? Love lions? Head over heels for hawksbill turtles? Help us to celebrate ARKive’s 8th birthday by voting for your favourite species!

Since its launch by Sir David Attenborough in 2003, ARKive has created amazing audio-visual profiles for almost 13,000 species.

To help you decide which species on ARKive you love the most we have pulled together a list of our top 20 most popular animals and plants. But if you are fanatical about fossas or more partial to a prickly pear you can vote for them too!

The winning species will be announced on ARKive’s birthday on May 20th in a special birthday edition of the enews, on our Facebook page and on twitter.

Will it be birthday ballons for the burrowing bettong or a conga line for the celebrating centipede – you decide!

Vote here for your favourite species.

Nov 10
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ARKive on the Road: Communicate 2010

 Q: Who thinks that TV is “chewing gum for the eyes”?

 A: Sir David Attenborough

Bet you didn’t see that one coming! Sir Attenborough was talking at Communicate, a conference held in Bristol on the 3rd and 4th of November which gathered hundreds of environmental communicators from across the country. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Connecting with Nature’: how do we communicate about and champion the natural world more effectively? How do we make people aware of the brilliance that is biodiversity and turn this awareness into action?

Greater flamingo

The beautiful greater flamingo in flight

Sir Attenborough said that television has a vital role to play in making people aware of the natural world and that he hoped his programmes had inspired many people. However, he worried that television was “dumbing down” – becoming “chewing gum for the eyes” – due to economic pressures and that, as such, people working in conservation and wildlife film-making should find new and more effective ways of promoting their message. He also believes, as does Ed Gillespie of Futuerra, that a positive ‘love’ message which celebrates the world’s fantastic flora and fauna is much more effective than a negative message that concentrates on doom and gloom. 

Ken Banks, founder of Kiwanja, demonstrated how he shares this belief that a positive message is the most effective way of promoting conservation. He enables non-profit organisations to make better use of technologies, such as mobile phones and online gaming, in their work. This allows charities and other NGOs to reach out to a wide range of people using innovative and engaging methods. Could technology be the solution to our communication problems?

iger shark getting up close and personal with new technology

Tiger shark getting up close and personal with new technology

Here at ARKive, we believe that films and photos are powerful tools in raising awareness about the amazing diversity of life on Earth and promoting conservation, something that Sir David echoed in his talk at Communicate. He said, “People won’t…care for an animal unless they know what that animal is”.

So, what do you think? How would you promote your conservation message?

Ruth Hendry, ARKive Media Researcher

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