They remain some of the nation’s best-loved - and most endangered - wildlife. And now more than 100 of England’s most threatened species from the grey long-eared bat to the pasque flower are being thrown a lifeline with a £4.6 million grant for conservation work.
The Heritage Lottery Fund money will go towards the “back from the brink” project, which will see a range of organisations working to save key species including the sand lizard and the Duke of Burgundy butterfly from extinction.
The programme, a partnership between government agency Natural England and seven leading UK wildlife charities, aims to save 20 species from extinction and help another 118 that are threatened move towards a more certain future.
It will include conservation work in more than 30 places around England, working with landowners, communities and volunteers.
Melanie Hughes, Natural England’s director of innovation and reform, said: “It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to secure this funding to support the recovery of some of our most threatened species - something we believe will make a real difference to our environment and heritage.”
She added: “We know that people care about the fate of our endangered wildlife, and this programme focuses on inspiring local communities to enjoy and learn about the vulnerable species local to them and across England, and how they can take positive action to improve their habitats.”
“There is too often a lack of awareness here about the dramatic decline of our native species and if we don’t act soon it will be too late.”Tom Tew, Heritage Lottery Fund trustee
Heritage Lottery Fund trustee Tom Tew said: “We think this programme can be a game-changer for wildlife - and it will get thousands of people involved in learning about and protecting some of England’s most endangered species.
“There is too often a lack of awareness here about the dramatic decline of our native species and if we don’t act soon it will be too late.”
He said the programme of initiatives would range across the country “from coast to heath, from bumblebees to bats, to make a real difference to many of our endangered species”.
Marian Spain, Chief Executive of Plantlife and Chair of the ‘Back from the Brink’ programme board, added: “This is our chance to leave a lasting legacy for the next generation, by bringing like-minded bodies together for the first time ever.
“As well as transforming the fortunes of our most vulnerable wildlife, this project will give people the chance to get hands on with our most beautiful and fascinating plants and animals.”
Today’s announcement comes after it emerged that more than a quarter of the UK’s bird species are now “red listed” due to concerns over their survival.
The latest Birds of Conservation Concern assessment found that 67 of the UK’s 244 birds are now under threat, with well-known species including curlew, puffin and nightingale joining others already on the red list such as turtle doves, cuckoos and starlings.
The number of birds at risk is an increase on the last assessment, in 2009, when 52 species or around a fifth of the country’s birds were on the UK red list. Most of the 67 species considered to be of conservation concern are on the list because of severe declines, having halved in numbers or their range in the UK in recent decades.
Once the development stage of the Back from the Brink project is completed in September 2016, the partnership hopes to secure the next phase of funding which would keep the project up and running until 2020.
It will involve seven ‘landscape scale projects’, all focusing on different habitats: arable, veteran trees and deadwood, limestone grassland, grass heath, lowland heaths, coastal sand dunes, and deciduous woodland.
Another strand will focus on 13 single species under particular threat, including freshwater crayfish, grey long-eared bat, shrill carder bee, little whirlpool ram’s horn snail, black-tailed godwit and willow tit.