Nature in the UK is on the brink – can we still #SaveOurWildIsles?

Puffins of Skomer Island

Has everyone watched the first episode of Wild Isles yet? 

The new BBC series, narrated by David Attenborough, looks at the nature and habitats to be found right here in the UK and ‘celebrates the wonders of British wildlife’ – but as one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, can we really keep calling these our ‘wild isles’ any more?

It’s a question which must have been at the heart of a new campaign created by a group of environmental charities, called Save Our Wild Isles.

This is an ‘Urgent S.O.S for nature’

National Trust Cymru, WWF Cymru and RSPB Cymru have joined together to issue ‘an urgent SOS for nature’ as Sir David Attenborough says ‘we must act now’ to Save Our Wild Isles.

As their first major campaign together, the three charities are urging everyone in society to come together to halt the destruction of nature. Their Save Our Wild Isles campaign will highlight not only how nature underpins everything that makes our lives possible, but crucially (and arguably, what’s being sorely missed in the upbeat, celebratory tone of the primetime BBC series) how profoundly threatened it is.

The UK is home to some of the most spectacular species on Earth – from puffins to orcas, bees, beavers, butterflies and ancient oak trees – but we are unequivocally pushing nature to the brink. Last December, global commitments were made which highlighted we have just seven years left to halt and reverse the loss of our natural world.

In a joint statement, RSPB Cymru, WWF Cymru and National Trust Cymru said: “The amazing wildlife and wild places that make Wales so special are being destroyed at terrifying speed. Huge numbers of animals, birds and habitats have been quite literally wiped out in our own lifetimes and we must now accept that without urgent and collective action, our economy, the climate and the stability of future generations living in our wild isles all face a ticking time bomb.

“It is a massive challenge, and we need to act fast, but there is hope. The science is clear about what we need to do and there are already amazing people transforming farms, businesses, coasts, urban spaces, transport networks, energy supplies and communities for nature. We just need much more of it.”  

The charities say there is still just enough of the UK’s natural world still left to save, if everyone – the public, communities, businesses and our leaders all urgently work together to aid its recovery. Given a chance, nature can begin to thrive again within the next few decades.

The scale of UK nature loss

A new YouGov poll commissioned for the Save Our Wild Isles campaign revealed 73% of people in Wales are worried about the state of nature in the UK.

But whilst the UK is in the bottom 10% of countries globally for protecting nature – only 4% believe the UK to be one of the worst countries in the world at preserving nature; 57% mistakenly believe that the UK is on a par (or better than) the rest of the world.

In reality, in the last 50 years…

  • 38 million birds have vanished from UK skies.
  • 97% of our wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s, with huge impacts on entire ecosystems.
  • A quarter of all of our mammals are at risk of complete extinction.

How to #SaveOurWildIsles

The majority of the public in Wales do see nature as a crucial lifeline and an essential part of daily life.

Over two thirds (67%) of respondents were worried about the impact nature loss would have on their life – 61% said it would negatively affect their health while the same number said it would negatively affect their family’s health.

The demand for change is also clear, with the majority of people in Wales saying both the Welsh Government (52%) and the UK Government (65%) are doing too little to tackle nature loss. The poll revealed overwhelming support (79%) for all political parties to come together to devise an action plan for protecting nature, while 78% of people backed harsher penalties for businesses that contribute to the decline in nature.

To help support these calls, one of the first actions of the Save Our Wild Isles campaign will be to engage hundreds of businesses and thousands of employees on the crucial impact that business plays in the fate of nature in the UK, by providing tools and guidance on how to take action. The charities will also be providing guidance, advice and inspiration for how people and communities can play an active role in restoring nature near to them. 

Against a background of unprecedented anxiety about nature loss and climate change, the charities are also calling on the public to show their love of nature by committing to ‘Go Wild Once a Week’. That could mean making space for nature in neighbourhoods by planting wildflower seeds in a window box or green space, eating less meat, getting involved in local community projects, or joining the charities in demanding our leaders act for nature’s recovery.

For more information and to Save our Wild Isles, visit www.saveourwildisles.org.uk.

The second episode of BBC’s Wild Isles is out on Sunday, featuring my favourite type of (increasingly diminishing) habitat – native woodland. You can catch it on BBC1 & iplayer from 7pm.

Episode One: The Puffins of Skomer Island

It was lovely to see Skomer featured in episode one of Wild Isles, as it’s one of the few places that my favourite bird – the puffin – is actually increasing in number.

I took the pictures in this blog post on a day trip to Skomer a few years ago, and it was one of the best wildlife experiences I’ve had in Wales. I vividly remember saying ‘Do you think we’ll actually see any Puffins?’ before our boat got close enough to realise its impossible not to – they’re everywhere – plopping down to make those cute puffin sounds, rubbing beaks with each other, and pitter-pattering to and fro their nesting holes. It was truly magical.

If you’d be interested in visiting, Skomer landings operate from the 1st April to 30th Sep, and you can pre-book the 15 min return trip online. Some stuff to know beforehand:

🐧 Each return trip includes 4.5 hours on the island.
🐧 The island is a nature reserve so you must stick to paths to avoid disturbing ground nesting puffins.
🐧 Similarly, dogs are not allowed. There’s also no coffee shop or cafe – take a packed lunch!
🐧 The best time of year for seeing Puffins is between April & July.

For more info, see here. If you’re planning a visit and want to know anything else – just drop me a message at @hungrycityhippy.

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