Endangered species: to bee or not to bee?
When you think of endangered animals, your mind may visualise the like of white rhinos and tigers. Have you ever considered, however, that species may be dying out on your doorstep? In our local woods, even the smallest insects may be on the verge of extinction.
One of the most widely known species on the list of endangered animals in this country is the hedgehog.
Many people are not aware of their decline, but hedgehog numbers are in fact rapidly falling. They used to be a common sight in our countryside, but sadly now they are rare; I only saw my first one in eleven years a few days ago.
According to The Mammal Society, their numbers have dropped by around 50% since the 1990’s. The reason for their decline in population is mainly down to loss of habitat, but there are other contributing factors, including poor hedgerow management and the increasing number of cars on the road leading to them being run over.
As well as this, hedgehogs eat slugs which have often digested slug pellets, thus poisoning the hedgehog.
They would live happily in gardens but the amount of tall, strong fences protecting houses prevents them from foraging and moving around (in summer they may travel as far as 3 km a night).
Another animal that is legally protected is the red squirrel. Their numbers are around 140,000 in the UK.
The decline has been happening steadily since the early 20th century so many people are aware of the problem. They were nearly wiped out completely in the 18th century by deforestation but then the numbers rose again. One of the main reasons for the numbers falling again was the squirrel pox virus, a deadly disease that kills squirrels.
Then, making matters worse, the grey squirrel was introduced in the late 19th century, which is said to have out-competed the red squirrel in broadleaf woodland, forcing the red squirrels into pine forests in Scotland and other places like the Isle of Wight. This is why they are seen less in England and more in Scotland.
The last endangered species I will observe is the bee.
When you think of bees, you may jump straight to thoughts of stings and annoying buzzing, but bees play a bigger role than we initially think.
They pollinate our crops, so without them there would be no fruit or any other insect pollinated food.
The main reason for their decline is that farmers are increasingly using pesticides called neonicotinoids. These are placed onto plants to keep beetles and other crop eating bugs at bay, but the pesticide stays inside the plant; by the time it has flowered, there are still chemicals in its system. The bee then flies to the flower and collects the pollen, which has the chemicals. The neonicotinoids then damage the bee’s health until it dies.
These chemicals also reduces the amount of offspring the bees can have, further damaging the population. 15 bee species have already been lost and 35 more are facing extinction according to Friends of the Earth. If we lost bees, the effects would be disastrous as they make up the majority of our insect pollinators and we would lose a huge amount of foods that contribute to the nutrition in our diet.
I think the growing risk of losing the species mentioned and many more is a major problem and should be tackled as soon as possible.
For ideas on how to help and more information, please visit these sites:
It is our responsibility to look after the environment, but are we really doing enough?
Fin Parette, Year Seven