Now Endangered: Hedgehog, House Sparrow


Photo credit: purple key

"'Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World,' said the Rat. 'And that's something that doesn't matter, either to you or me. I've never been there, and I'm never going, nor you either, if you've got any sense at all.'"—Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Pity the legacies of Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter, and Kenneth Grahame; we can almost hear them rolling over in their graves (which scares the beejeezus out of us): Once-familiar animals in Britain, including the hedgehog, water vole, and house sparrow, have been added to the U.K. Biodiversity Action plan for threatened species, mostly because of habitat destruction.

The cuckoo, harvest mouse, and other frolicking creatures central to English literature, music, and nursery rhymes, will receive extra protection, as well as an increase in the number of wild habitats. (See BBC News' slide show of the U.K.'s endangered species.)

The action plan, which is reviewed every decade, has doubled the number of species listed from 577 in 1997 to 1,149, despite the more than 100 previously protected species which have flourished or stabilized during that time.The hedgehog has taken such a hit in population size that continuing trends would lead to its extinction by 2025. The spiny mammal has to brave traffic, pollution, pesticides, and garden chemicals in its struggle for survival.

The house sparrow has declined by around 50 percent in the last 25 years, along with the starling, once a common sight in the skies.

Announcing the list was Joan Ruddock, the minister with special responsibility for biodiversity, who remains optimistic that species and habitat loss would be curtailed within three years, adding that the increase in the list was partly due to more-rigorous scientific analysis.

"Through the Biodiversity Action Plan, we have shown that we can be very successful when we target our resources at conserving particular species and habitats," she said. "We have increased the population of the rare cirl bunting and also areas of lowland heathland."

She continued: "We have even been able to remove some species from the list such as the Killarney fern and the prickly sedge, because we have already met all our action plan objectives for them. But our climate is changing and it is more important than ever that we help wildlife habitats to adapt." ::Guardian Unlimited

Tags: Biodiversity | Conservation | England | United Kingdom