Today’s wildlife news has been dominated by the latest update to the IUCN red list for birds. The number of UK species on the list has doubled from 4 to 8, with puffin and turtle dove now listed as Vulnerable (the same category as lions), slavonian grebe and pochard now listed as Near Threatened.
A British coast without puffins is unthinkable. I didn’t grow up hearing turtle doves, but summer with them is even better. British summers without turtle doves would be much poorer. Then there’s the elaborately head-dressed slavonian grebe, quietly vanishing without anybody really knowing why. I would imagine most of the pochard’s problems are on migration or up in its breeding grounds in the Russian Arctic, but what a shame to contemplate losing this smart diving duck from our lakes and gravel pits in the winter. Or indeed anywhere in the world.
As Martin Harper, conservation director at the RSPB eloquently said, the ‘global wave of extinction is now lapping at our shores’. In fact, look beyond the headline grabbing birds at invertebrates, or fungi and I would guess that the wave is already crashing over us.
Nature is in crisis. We need to wake up. I need to wake up. If we care, we must act. And what do I actually do for nature, day after day? Very little. The indifference, nay, hostility of our government to nature may be depressing, but that’s no excuse for those of us who claim to care to sink into despair and do nothing. We can no longer assume that even once common species can’t vanish – that’s a lesson the passenger pigeon should have taught us over a century ago. What practically I should be doing I’m not sure. Donate more, campaign more, of course. But it feels as though the conservation movement needs to change gear, to make a step-change in how we operate. Whatever we’re doing at the moment is clearly not working.