Extinction warning: Hedgehogs at risk of being wiped out in Britain
Hedgehogs, along with the wildcat, red squirrel, water vole and hazel dormouse, are just some of the eleven mammals which have been placed on the UK’s endangered species link. This marks the first time the hedgehog features on the list.
Fiona Matthews, chair of the Mammal Society and professor at the University of Sussex, said: “I’m not saying they [the hedgehog] are going to go extinct in the next five years and actually it’s quite difficult to put a precise number on it, just as we can’t put a precise number on it for a lion or a tiger.
“What we’re saying is that the trajectory of travel is such that if we don’t do something really radical, a lot bolder, then yes, these species that were taken for granted… they are going to end up with our grandchildren not being able to see them.”
Factors such as extensive historical persecution, habit degradation and introducing non-native species all play a part in contributing to the threat posed to the existence of the mammals.
Ms Matthews continued: “The new red list provides a very clear basis for prioritising funding and conservation efforts for the future.
“Twenty species – those classed as threatened, near threatened and data deficient – all need urgent attention.
“While we bemoan the demise of wildlife in other parts of the world, here in Britain we are managing to send even rodents towards extinction.
“Things have to change rapidly if we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy the wildlife we take for granted.”
Critically endangered animals in the UK include the wildcat and the greater mouse-eared bat.
The beaver, red squirrel, water vote and grey long-eared bat are considered endangered while the hedgehog, hazel dormouse, Orkney vole, Serotine bat and Barbastelle bat are all vulnerable.
Only a small percentage of the 107 different species of mammals in the UK are native to the country.
There are 28 native terrestrial mammal species, two marine mammals and 18 native bats, the Mammal Society report.
Natural England chairman Tony Juniper added: “This is a wake-up call, but it is not too late to act.
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“We are working with our parents to recover our threatened and widely loved mammals, including licensing the reintroduction of beavers into England, and supporting the recovery of dormice and the grey long-eared bat, but there is so much more to do.
“Central to the recovery of these and other creatures will be the protection and restoration of large areas of suitable habitat, including through the creation of a vibrant and wildlife-rich Nature Recovery Network, enabling populations of rare animals to increase and be reconnected with one another.”
The Mammal Society warn reintroducing species into local areas could be successful but the threat of their existence will remain.
The study read: “Nevertheless, the animals will only cease to be classed as threatened once their populations are much larger and better connected.
“Unfortunately, for most other species, reintroductions are not a solution because the causes of their declines have not been rectified.
“Instead, fundamental change is needed in the way we manage our landscapes and plan future developments, so that we provide the space and habitat needed for our wildlife to thrive.”
Over the centuries, dozens of animals have become extinct in the UK.
These include the aurochs, apple bumblebee, lynx, wolf, elk and brown bear.
There have been some successful reintroductions including the white-tailed eagle in Scotland and the red kites in Wales.
Others include the European beaver and the river otter species.
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