Feb 1

Species name: red squirrel

Nominated by: The Wildlife Trust for

Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside

IUCN Red List classification: Least Concern

What is so special about your species?

For many in the United Kingdon, the red squirrel brings back childhood memories of Squirrel Nutkin, a character from the famous Beatrix Potter series. The red squirrel is one of our most iconic, native and much loved small mammals in the UK. Seeing a red squirrel for the first time is a special moment, and something that everybody should experience.

In terms of ecological niche, the red squirrel is a key seed disperser for our native tree species such as Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). They also spread mychorrizal fungi spores that are incredibly important for their symbiosis with trees. Red squirrels therefore play a vital role in regeneration of coniferous woodlands which are also an important habitat for other species, such as the goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), pine marten (Martes martes) and wildcat (Felis silvestris).

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

The red squirrel has nearly completely disappeared from the UK in just under 150 years, declining from around 3.5 million to just 140,000. However they are now a protected species in the UK.

Sadly, the biggest threat to the species has been the introduction of the invasive grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), brought over by the Victorians in the 1870s. Not only do grey squirrels outcompete Reds in for food and resources, they also carry the squirrel pox virus. This virus is highly pathogenic to reds, yet carried by greys without impact on their health. Currently 61% of Greys have been exposed to and may carry the virus. Where the virus is present, Greys replace red squirrels twenty times faster than through competition alone.

What can people do to help your species?

If you are in an area in the UK which currently has a population of red squirrels nearby and you spot a grey squirrel, please contact your local Wildlife Trust or Red Squirrels United (a partnership of many organisations working together to save the Red), and inform them of your sighting.

If you would like to get involved in long term monitoring and survey work, helping towards understanding population trends, impacts of Greys and the effects of conservation management techniques then please contact us.

If you don’t live close to a population of Reds, one way you can help is by raising awareness about the red squirrel through community engagement and fundraising. Get creative and get in touch and let’s save the last red squirrel together!



Feb 1

Species name: common toad

Nominated by: Froglife


IUCN Red List classification: Least Concern

What is so special about your species?

Toads are full of character, crucial to our ecosystem and central to our culture (no need for them to turn into a handsome prince when kissed!). They do a great job eating slugs and snails in our gardens. Toads have a gorgeous warty skin with a really nifty defence mechanism – glands leave a disgusting taste in a predator’s mouth. They are amazing mini navigators which means they can return to ancestral breeding ponds along the very same route each year.

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

There has been a massive loss of toads – they have declined by over 68% in the last 30 years in the UK. At this rate this once common species will be considered vulnerable to extinction. There is a disturbing level of toad deaths each year on our roads and they have really suffered from loss of habitat, loss of ponds for breeding and the destruction of migration routes from housing and industrial developments.

What can people do to help your species?

Join or set up your own ‘toad patrol’ through our Toads on Roads project, which involves volunteers counting, collecting and carrying toads over roads during their spring migration. We can save thousands of toads each year!

Record your sightings on Froglife’s Dragonfinder app.

Make your garden wildlife friendly by providing places for toads to feed and hide.

Create a wildlife pond with a section of deeper water so toads can breed.

Donate to Froglife’s Tuppence a Toad appeal which will enable us to support our voluntary toad patrollers, carry out further research using the data collected, and deliver practical conservation projects to improve toad habitats.



Feb 1

Species name: freshwater pearl mussel

Nominated by: Freshwater Habitats Trust


IUCN Red List classification: Critically Endangered

What is so special about your species?

Freshwater pearl mussels are magnificent bivalves that live in rivers with exceptionally clean water and lots of healthy wildlife. Pearl mussels are spectacularly long-lived, often over 100 years, and have a fascinating life cycle. Baby pearl mussels need healthy populations of trout and salmon and live harmlessly in the gills of these fish, enjoying a safe, oxygen-rich nursery until they are big enough to begin life in the riverbed. In return, large populations of the filter-feeding pearl mussels provide a water cleaning service. A healthy population of Freshwater pearl mussels shows that a river and all its wildlife are doing well.

Freshwater pearl mussels were once widespread. Sadly, there are very few rivers where these marvellous mussels still live, and even fewer where baby mussels are able to grow into adults. Freshwater pearl mussels are now one of the most critically endangered species in the world.

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Freshwater pearl mussels are not breeding well because our rivers are in a poor state. Nutrient pollution from agriculture and sediment washing off land are making our rivers uninhabitable for many species. Fish numbers have fallen so baby mussels cannot survive, and mussel beds are choked with silt and algae causing the adult mussels to die. People fishing for pearls, which is illegal, therefore is also a concern, even though they are very unlikely to ever find a pearl in a pearl mussel.

What can people do to help your species?

Anyone who looks after land can help by reducing the amount of pollution and soil running from their land into streams and rivers. There are many schemes that offer support for land managers looking to protect our clean, healthy rivers and help clean up polluted waters.




Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: common clubtail

Nominated by: British Dragonfly Society

Why do you love it?

The common clubtail has a misleading name, it is not common at all in the UK! This is a very unique species, with its bulbous eyes set apart from each other, its bright golden and black colouring and the clubbed tip of the body. While they are developing, which takes three to five years, common clubtails live as larvae underwater in rivers, burying themselves in the sediment but leaving their back ends sticking out to breath and their eyes poking out to watch for prey. This dragonfly is harder to see than most because of its habit of leaving the river and living in the tops of nearby trees as an adult.

What are the threats to the common clubtail?

This beautiful but elusive dragonfly is threatened by major works carried out on rivers, which destroys the plants they need to emerge into adults. Scouring of the river bed also removes the silt they need to bury in. Excessive silt build up is likewise a problem, suffocating the larvae, as is poor water quality. Fast moving boats on rivers are dangerous for this insect, with the wash created disturbing them during emergence. The removal of woodland near to rivers limits the amount of suitable habitat for this species, and finally, our changing climate is a potentially serious threat, with bad weather during emergence reducing their numbers and hot weather also killing the larvae.

What are you doing to save it?

Records of the common clubtail in the UK are mostly old and very patchy. The British Dragonfly Society desperately needs to understand the population sizes and distribution of this dragonfly to conserve it. This is why the society is running Clubtail Count 2017, calling on all nature lovers to join in the search for this beautiful insect. No previous experience of dragonfly identification is needed, you will be taught all you need to know to find this local specialist.

Visit the British Dragonfly Society website to find out more.




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