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A Quarter of UK Mammals at Risk of Extinction

Annie Grey looks into the unwelcoming news and explores which animals are at risk of extinction in the UK.

Photo by Ali Kazal

A quarter of UK mammals and nearly half of native birds are at risk of extinction, according to scientists who have composed the nation’s first official Red List of endangered species.

The list has been approved by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), using the same internationally agreed rules behind the global Red Lists of threatened species such as elephants and tigers. It has been produced for the official nature agencies of England, Scotland and Wales.

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Which animals are at risk?

According to the report, which was collated by more than 70 wildlife organisations and government conservation agencies, the mammals facing the most threat in the UK are as follows:

Critically endangered: Wildcat, greater mouse-eared bat;

Endangered: Beaver, red squirrel, water vole, grey long-eared bat;

Endangered: Beaver, red squirrel, water vole, grey long-eared bat;

Why is this happening?

This is due a number of factors: the intensification of farming, pollution from fertiliser, manure and plastic, the destruction of habitats for houses, the climate crisis and invasive alien species.

The endangered red squirrels for example, have now been wiped out across most of the UK, mainly through disease transmission. Red squirrels are extremely susceptible to a pox virus carried by the grey squirrels, and as a result of this invasion, now only a few populations remain in England and Wales.

The critically endangered greater mouse-eared bat tops the list, with scientists believing there is only one left in the UK. Reportedly they were threatened by the loss of their prey, the conversion of old barns and derelict buildings in which they had roosted, and the bright lights of new suburbs.

Red squirrels still have a stronghold in Scotland and dedicated programmes are helping to ensure their conservation against the constant threat of the invasive grey squirrel. However, the species’ population has rapidly declined over the last 100 years.

Unfortunately, research from The State of Nature showed there had been no significant improvement in the conservation of endangered species since 2016, the time of the previous report. Losses to all animals, plants and marine life showing no sign of immediate recovery, despite there being some successes in protecting individual species. In fact, data shows that 41% of species have decreased in abundance, while just 26% have increased.

At this time, The State of Nature concluded that the UK was “among the most nature-depleted countries in the world”, which suggests a lot more needs to be done to ensure the recovery of these endangered species.

You may also like: Awake Yet? Humanity's Impact on The Wild Animals and Plants

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