Is conservation going backwards?


Not been getting much chance to post recently with the workload but after reading about the badger cull pilots getting the go ahead I though it was important to raise this issue.



In the world of conservation we are always being told to help the Giant Panda or Bengal Tiger yet the animals on the verge of extinction are not the only concern. Sometimes we forget about the animals and environment on our doorstep. With hindsight extinctions both locally and globally could have been prevented but society had different priorities and less scientific insight in the past. Wolves were a common predator so were exterminated from most of Europe and the US. There are 63 mammals classed as ‘conservation dependant‘ and conservation costs money.

Panda Gao Gao in San Diego Zoo, USA

In the US, wolves have been reintroduced, at a cost. Now some states are allowing hunters to shoot them, against scientific advice. In Sweden, a wolf cull was blocked legally by conservation groups since it was not a viable cull. In the UK, foxes have been labelled an urban menace by politicians who suggested a cull, against scientific advice. In the UK, a badger cull pilot has just been given the go ahead, against scientific advice. No doubt there are other examples of countries trying to cull/reduce populations of native animals even if the scientific community are against it.



This post is just a personal rant after seeing the latest badger cull get the go ahead but if we don’t maintain current populations of animals not at risk through scientifically approved methods, we run the risk of adding to the ever-increasing endangered species list and having to spread conservation budgets ever thinner.





Urban fox – friend or foe?


Fox (Photo credit: AndyRobertsPhotos)

Anyone who has seen an urban fox, as I have, will know that although surrounded by an urban jungle they will shy away from you the moment you get near. I have seen two foxes in Sheffield City Centre, both when it was very quiet and both times the fox just strolled past (at a distance) and dived into the first hedge they could find.

Many of you will have read of a baby’s finger being severed by a fox recently in London, and you may remember the baby sisters mauled by a fox in 2010 as they slept. This type of attack, although tragic, is a rare occurrence to say there are 33,ooo urban foxes in the UK and 10,000 in London alone. The above attacks are mentioned here.

Put this figure next to another urban nuisance; the cat. There are around 800,000 feral cats, that roam our urban districts. Cats, which are certainly more willing to approach humans, can bite and scratch as almost anyone who has been on the wrong side of one can vouch for. And when I quoted the figure 800,000, I ignored the 9 million pet cats, many of which also roam freely around our urban and suburban areas. I’m not suggesting we cull cats, just putting the so called ‘nuisance’ into perspective. Lets look at another animal found in ALL urban areas; the dog. Now, I also get annoyed at the negative media portrayal of dogs every time there is an attack. albeit rare, dogs do attack and in some cases kill, more children than foxes.

Foxes hunt rats in the cities, rats spread disease and can enter households much easier than a fox. Foxes rarely rummage through bins, especially now the majority of bins are plastic wheelie bins! Most foxes only eat scrap food when it is fed to them by people who leave it out in their garden because they want foxes to visit. In my opinion, foxes are a true representative of urban ‘nature’ whereas cats and dogs are not, yet they produce many more issues and even cause more of a nuisance to gardeners.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has urged councils to tackle the increasing ‘menace’ of urban foxes however there is no hard evidence that the number of urban foxes has increased (one study found that they have decreased in some areas due to disease epidemics) and culls are known to be ineffective since new foxes just move into the newly presented territory.

As a final note on the subject, there are approximately 28,000 facial dog bites REPORTED in the UK with numerous deaths. These figures are easy to find through google. Fox attacks are harder to find, after trawling google I found 3 cases; the recent finger severing, the baby sisters in 2010 and a young boy being bitten after disturbing a fox under the garden shed, so lets not get the pitch-forks out just yet Boris. Here is the fox website for more information on urban foxes.

English: Mayor of London, Boris Johnson poses ...