Updated: Aug 7, 2019
The human population of the UK shares the beautiful and diverse landform we live on with around 88,000 different species of animals, plants and fungi. That sounds a lot but in fact our wildlife is a shadow of its former self, as natural habitats come under pressure and Man’s destructive habits take their toll. There are over 7 billion people on our planet. If we all did something – however small – to protect the wildlife around us, the collective force for good would be huge.
Here’s how we can help…
Home improvements – there are an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK, so aim to Go Wild!
While your neighbour won’t rest until they’ve mown the lawn at the weekend and chopped the head off every daisy and buttercup, sit back and watch the grass grow! Insects love long grass and wild flowers will thrive.
Abandon fences and build hedges instead. Hedges allow wildlife to move about more and provide feeding and breeding opportunities. Hedges supply food – leaves, fruit, berries, nuts and seeds – and are perfect places for predators to find insects to eat. They act as good windbreaks, creating sheltered zones in a garden that are attractive to butterflies. Plant hawthorn, blackthorn, beech and hornbeam and grow honeysuckle, Traveller’s Joy (clematis) and wild roses in amongst them – this will provide shelter which insects and nesting birds will find attractive. Try to resist frequent trimming of the hedge, so flowers can form.
Attract butterflies and bees. Just about any flower will attract butterflies but this isn’t the case for their caterpillars which tend to be species-fussy. For example, the Large White caterpillar likes Brassicas and Nasturtiums, the Orange-tip prefers Cuckooflower, Garlic Mustard and Honesty.
Build a pond. See https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions/how-build-pond for instructions.
Never drop and always pick up litter
Birds and other animals can trap their heads in plastic rings and bottles, marine life can consume plastic which gets lodged in their stomach and litter pollutes everyone’s natural resources. There is nothing to love about it! Buy less plastic in the first place, so the risk of it polluting the countryside is reduced.
Be mindful of what you wash away – some detergents are harmful to wildlife and take an eternity to break down.
Most detergents display whether or not they are biodegradable and good for the environment, so choose your brands carefully – Ecover, Method, Bio-D and some supermarket own-brands have products made from natural and environmentally-friendly ingredients and will keep water safe for wildlife.
Check you’re not buying microbeads which are polluting natural environments, are eaten by and harm wildlife and have entered the food chain. They’re even washing up on the shores of Antarctica!
Although a ban on the manufacture of products – toothpaste, scrubs – containing plastic microbeads was put in place in 2018, microbeads are still allowed in many other products, such as cleaning products, lipsticks, sunscreens and paints. So, check ingredients listings for microbeads – they’re often found in products that aim to add shine. These are the chemicals they’re made from, so look out for their listing: polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), nylon (PA). If you find you already have products containing microbeads, don’t wash the contents away. Filter them through a coffee filter and throw them away in unrecyclable rubbish. You can still use the products without them.
Get involved by volunteering at your local nature centre or wildlife refuge.
You can help clean beaches, maintain footpaths, rescue wild animals or teach visitors. The Wildlife Trusts “look after 2,300 nature reserves – by protecting and managing special habitats and rare and uncommon wildlife, defending them against damage.” For the centre nearest to you, take a look at https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/ or for refuges, see www.fws.gov/refuges/
Recycle and buy sustainable products.
Buying recycled paper and sustainable products like bamboo will help to protect forest species. Never buy furniture made from wood from rainforests and minimise your use of palm oil because forests where tigers and orangutans live are being cut down to plant palm plantations – palm oil is in many biscuits, ice creams, instant noodles, soap. Look for a product that has sustainable palm oil certification. Mass-produced jeans often use large quantities of highly toxic chemicals which are frequently then released into waterways, affecting wildlife. The River Ganges, for example, no longer supports the enormous ecosystems it once did.
One of the greatest threats to wildlife in developed areas is traffic. Slow down and keep an eye out for wildlife on the road.
Don’t use harmful herbicides and pesticides. They may keep your garden tidy, but they have a devastating effect on wildlife.
Many take a long time to degrade, build up in soils and invade the food chain affecting all animals, including humans. Amphibians are particularly vulnerable to these chemicals which drain into their habitats and cause huge suffering; hawks and buzzards can also be threatened if they eat small animals poisoned by animals. For alternatives to pesticides, visit https://www.beyondpesticides.org.
Support wildlife trusts and donate funds if you can by visiting a national wildlife refuge, park or other open space.
Scientists say the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the places where they live. Your entry fees and donations help maintain these vital conservation areas.
Campaign and complain
Tell the Environment Agency of any failings you see – flooding, poaching, dead fish in rivers, pollution, illegal waste disposal etc. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/environment-agency
https://www.wildlifetrusts.org “We influence and develop policies for our land and seas – by using our experience of what works on the ground to work and campaign for laws and policies that help wildlife on land and at sea. Legislation and policy that helps wildlife often has many benefits for people too.”
In 2020, world leaders come together in Beijing at a global summit to save nature. The RSPB (https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/campaigning/) is campaigning for:
Our existing nature protection laws to remain at least as strong as they are now
Agriculture reform to support the recovery of nature in all four countries of the UK.
New laws that drive nature’s recovery in all four countries of the UK, including through setting binding long-term targets, and creating world-leading environmental watchdogs.