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Five endangered British species (and how to save them)

By Helen Pentith  //  Wed 12th February 2014
Escrick Park Rural Business Premises Yorkshire

When people talk about the endangered species list, the mind automatically wanders to large, exotic animals such as the Bengal tiger, the giant panda and the black rhino. This suggests, however, that endangered animals aren’t our problem – they’re for other people to deal with in countries far away from here. Unfortunately, there are a large number of endangered or threatened animal species living right here in the British Isles. Countless species have already gone extinct from under our very noses, either as a consequence of climate change, habitat destruction, competition or over hunting. The same fate does not need to befall our current endangered species, however. What animals are at risk on or near the grounds of Escrick Park Estate, and what can we do to save them in future?

Hazel dormouse

The hazel dormouse is Britain’s only native dormouse species, and this adorable little rodent is emblematic of a peaceful, pastoral existence. Happily, the global hazel dormouse population has a conservation status rated as ‘least concern,’ although it’s a very different story here in Britain. Here, the dormouse is protected under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act due to its dwindling numbers. Habitat destruction and resource depletion are major threats to the UK dormouse population, but conservation efforts and woodland management are helping to stabilise numbers across the country.

Great bittern

Like the hazel dormouse, the great bittern survives in healthy numbers across Europe and Asia but numbers are suffering here in the UK. This attractive and well-camouflaged brown heron likes to wade in marshes and lakes as it hunts, but there are currently thought to be just 44 breeding pairs distributed across the UK. If we don’t act to check habitat destruction and manage climate change to prevent colder winters, the bittern’s booming call might soon be lost from these shores forever.

Smooth snake

The UK is actually home to six different species of native reptile, as well as several more that have become naturalised over the years. The harmless smooth snake is one of the former species, and used to be widely distributed across Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey. Now, however, the smooth snake is one of the UK’s rarest animals and is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. Numbers have declined due to habitat destruction and the trade of the animals as pets, but by taking steps to protect smooth snakes from such threats, the population of these reptiles has recently stabilised.

Natterjack toad

Britain is home to a heartening variety of native amphibians, the rarest of which is inarguably the natterjack toad. This little toad is still widely distributed across Europe, but once more, the British can tell a very different story. Pollution and habitat destruction are the two key threats to the natterjack population, and environmentalists were so concerned for the animal’s wellbeing that the Biodiversity Action Plan was implemented in 1994. It’s vitally important that animals such as the natterjack toad are provided with the habitats they need to live and breed safely.

Stag beetle

The European stag beetle is Britain’s largest insect – a magnificent animal boasting impressive, antler-like structures on its head. Britain used to be home to another stage beetle species – the blue stag beetle – but this went extinct in the UK during the 20th century. A similar fate awaits the European stag beetle unless things change before too long, and habitat creation is currently one of the most important conservation efforts in place for these creatures here in the UK.

These five domestic British animals face considerable threats, but conservation efforts can help to maintain their populations here in the UK. At Escrick Park, we appreciate the need for conservation, hence our efforts to create managed woodland habitats at Three Hagges Wood. Environmental stewardship is equally crucial to our efforts here at Escrick Park, so why not take a look at our website and find out how we’re working to protect Britain’s endangered species in future?

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