Red Squirrel by Austin Thomas
The first official Red List for British Mammals has been created highlighting the national species at risk of extinction if urgent action is not taken.
Produced by the Mammal Society for Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage, the Red List shows that of the 47 mammals native to Britain, 11 are classified as being at imminent risk of extinction, with a further five species classified as ‘near threatened’.
Researchers are calling for immediate action to prevent the species listed from becoming extinct, with those most at risk including the water vole, hedgehog, hazel dormouse, wildcat and the grey long-eared bat.
Although doing well in the scattered locations where they have been reintroduced, wildcat and beaver numbers are still at worrying levels, while habitat loss and the introduction of non-native species has been devastating for bats, the hazel dormouse, water vole and red squirrel.
Fiona Mathews, Mammal Society Chair and Professor at the University of Sussex, says: “The new Red List provides a very clear basis for prioritising funding and conservation efforts for the future. Twenty species — those classed as Threatened, Near Threatened, and Data Deficient — all need urgent attention. While we bemoan the demise of wildlife in other parts of the world, here in Britain we are managing to send even rodents towards extinction. Things have to change rapidly if we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy the wildlife we take for granted.”
The Red List for Great Britain has been recognised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), who has identified threats to British mammals using the same internationally-agreed system used to classify threats to species such as elephants and tigers.
Mammals at risk will only stop being classed as threatened once their populations are much larger and better connected. This will only happen when a change is made to the way we manage our landscapes and plan future developments, and provide the habitat needed for our wildlife to thrive.