2014 Roundup: September – December
It’s finally here, the end of 2014 and the start of 2015. A time for looking ahead to the new year and what it may bring as well as reflecting upon the passing years events. And as such here is the final part of our 2014 Roundup, presented with our warm thanks for all the support you’ve given us over the past year and promises for an even better 2015.
We had a long and glorious summer in Britain with complete with a heatwave followed by an earth-shattering storm. September saw the summer months coming to a close but some stories were only just getting started in the world of wildlife.
An old miltary base in Kent became a battleground between conservation and housing development. Lodge Hill in Kent was the perfect place for development of new infrastructure for the surrounding area, save for the small fact that it is home to a population of the rapidly declining Nightingales. According to conservation charities the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) had failed tests to determine that development would not cause a significant loss to biodiversity in the area. This has initiated an ongoing battle between conservation charities and developers with conservationists concerned a decision against them will open the floodgates to development on important conservation land. You can read more about Lodge Hill here.
The other key story of September was the release of the Living Planet Index by the WWF which warned of the dangers of unsustainable human consumption and climate change. According to the report there is 50% less wildlife living on the planet then there was 40 years ago. Although biodiversity loss is now at critical levels, some species have fared a lot worse than others with freshwater species declining by 76%. The report did face some critiscism in that it was not representative of all species.
October was the month that the invasive Quagga Mussel washed up on Britains shores. Measuring a mere 5cm across, the Quagga Mussel has the potential to be immensely destructive and its discovery in the River Wraysbury prompted a great deal of concern by scientists. This concern rose from their ability to filter water, upsets the natural balance of their new environments as well as their potentially harmful toxic faeces and ability to prolifically breed. If you don’t believe how dangerous these mussels can be, have a look at what they’ve been up to in the Hoover Dam.
Whilst immigration and the rise of UKIP were on a lot of peoples minds over the autumn period, it turned out that the UK was actually in contravention of the EU Habitats Directive and could potentially be taken to the European Court of Justice regarding its failure to protect harbour porpoises. Harbour porpoises are still relatively abundant in UK waters but under increasing pressure and the UK has failed to designate more than 1 special area of conservation (SACs) for them. There is however the potential to develop SACs in Wales and Scotland according to conservationists.
Finally October saw amphibians in Spain suffering from a new virus, called Ranavirus. The virus causes ulcers on the infected animals skin, which then unfortunatly dies from internal bleeding, and has an immensely high kill rate. It also is claimed that it can cross species barriers as a snake who ate an infected animal was reportedly infected.
The RSPB released their bird crime statistics for 2013 at the start of November and the results were not encouraging. Overall there were 164 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey, including the shooting of 2 hen harriers, 28 buzzards and 74 reports of poisoning and pesticide-related offences. Of those poisoned, confirmed victims included 20 red kits, a golden eagle and white-tailed eagle. Moreover there were also 14 cases of nests being robbed and 29 cases of illegal taking, possession or sale of birds of prey. Experts however believe that many cases of persecution are still going undetected or unreported so the figures may be much higher.
Related to this story was the conclusion of the trial of Allen Lambert who was found guilty of killing ten buzzards and a sparrowhawk whilst working on an estate in Norfolk. The RSPB described his acts as “truly awful” however he was only handed a ten week suspended sentence and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £930.
November also saw the taxpayer understandably aggrieved at the cost of the first trial of the badger cull – £3,350 per badger. Despite conservationists anger at this news story, they were pleased to find the government soften their proposal for the Devon Beavers. The beavers will now be tested closer to their new home, which will make it easier for them to be re-released if they are disease free.
December was a mixture of positive and negative news. Starting with the negative, the Biodiversity: Life – A Status Report showed we were heading towards a Sixth Mass Extinction event which would be entirely man-made. It also emerged that around 5,000 puffins perished off the coast of Pembrokeshire in the winter storms.
However 2014 seemed to have had the perfect weather for summer breeding birds such as tawny owls, who with the help of the sheer abundance of voles had their most successful breeding season on record.
It was also the perfect weather for butterflies with several sightings of rare butterflies this summer. The Scarce Tortoiseshell Butterfly was reportedly seen over 30 times this summer and if it manages to successfully hibernate and emerge next year, it will be a first since records began! It is hoped that 2015 will be a big year for butterflies as they continue to build upon the successes they had this year.
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