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Conservationists warn UK faces ‘ecological apocalypse’ as native species go extinct



Conservationists have warned of an “ecological apocalypse” resulting in a dramatic decline in vast numbers of species across the UK.

Launching a People’s Manifesto for Wildlife, broadcaster Chris Packham said the UK is witnessing a “mass extinction in our own backyards” due to a lack of regard for the environment – such as building roads and houses through natural habitats and using pesticides in farming.

A staggering 38,000 mountain hares have been killed on hunting estates across Scotland, and the manifesto warns the animals could become extinct in our lifetime.

Forty-four million birds are reported to have disappeared from the countryside over the last 40 years and the numbers of hedgehogs dropped from approximately 30 million in the 1950s to 1.5 million in 1995.

Chris Packham has warned of an 'ecological apocalypse'
Chris Packham has warned of an ‘ecological apocalypse’

“We share these shocking statistics like a vicious game of Top Trumps – to the extent that they have lost their meaning,” said Mr Packham.

“We’ve forgotten that they are a death toll, the dwindling voices of vanished millions, a tragic echo of a recent time of plentiful life. The ecological apocalypse taking place in our countryside is not going to be halted by me – or by you.

“It needs us all to act.”

Hedgehog numbers have plummeted in the past 40 years
Hedgehog numbers have plummeted in the past 40 years

Across 10 wetland centres in the UK, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) is attempting to set an example for what the spaces around us should look like.

John Arbon, grounds and facilities manager at WWT Barnes, advised: “Don’t go for one of these designer gardens that you see on the Chelsea Flower Show.

“Look at having a little wild corner. Have a pond, have a wetland area, have a wood pile, have a pile of decaying logs, a pile of compost.”

Hare numbers have also fallen across the country
Hare numbers have also fallen across the country

The manifesto – created with 17 other scientists, wildlife experts and campaigners – claims the UK is among the most nature-depleted countries in the world and makes 200 suggestions on how we can help.

Mr Packham will join other activists in a Walk for Wildlife from Hyde Park to Downing Street on Saturday, to deliver the manifesto to Number 10 and urge the government to take action.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has welcomed the manifesto and promised to explore its findings.

The government has promised 2019 will be the Year of Green Action, and in a 25-year environment plan it has committed to creating or restoring half a million hectares of wildlife-rich habitat.

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