- 10 October 2016
Almost two thirds of species in the UK have declined in the past 50 years, including some of the country’s most charismatic mammals. The Royal Society of Biology has launched a poll to discover the Favourite UK Mammal.
A total of 101 mammal species can be found in and around the UK. Some of these species have suffered serious declines and require increased conservation effort.
Professor David Macdonald CBE CBiol FRSB, director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at The University of Oxford said: “Mammals are special! Not only are we one of them, but their appeal and charisma make them powerful ambassadors for nature.
“Most of the UK’s big mammals such as wolves and lynx have gone, and while we procrastinate on bringing them back, we should celebrate the 101 that remain. They are beset by all the global threats to wildlife; from disease afflicting red squirrels, hybridisation diluting wildcats to oblivion, habitat loss and invasive species blighting water voles.
“Whether it’s in air, sea, river, land or burrow there’s a mammal to suit your tastes – but which do you prefer as your personal flagship? That’s what the RSB poll seeks to find out.”
Mammals deliver a variety of benefits to our environment. For instance, many small mammals are ecologically important because they act as prey for bird species and mammalian carnivores. Conversely large mammals may be important in the maintenance of high biodiversity habitats through the impacts of grazing.
“Each species, large or small, is a cog in nature’s system”, said Macdonald, “but whether seemingly useful to people or not, each can be treasured because it is beautiful and interesting.”
Water voles have declined dramatically in the UK, this can be attributed to the invasive American mink and a reduction in riverside habitat due to agriculture. Hedgehogs numbers have also dropped due to the influence of agricultural change.
“People act on what they care about, so it’s not just fun to explore their preferences and preconceptions, it’s useful too” said Professor Macdonald. “We already know that the global favourites are big cats, and that knowledge can mobilise conservation campaigns – so let’s find out which UK mammal people most want to champion.
“Whichever mammal you chose, it’ll be bumping up against some inconvenient aspect of the 21st century, and will need society’s support to prosper. For a nation that widely encourages others to protect wildlife in their communities, let us practise what we preach by nurturing the wildlife in our own backyards.”
As the Society launches the fifth annual Biology Week (8-16 October), they want to celebrate these captivating creatures by finding the UK’s favourite.
With the help of experts from The Mammal Society and People’s Trust for Endangered Species, the RSB developed a shortlist of 10 of the UK’s favourite mammal species. There are lots of other mammals we would have liked to include in our poll and all species are important. People can find out more about UK mammals and conservation projects on our website.
Each voter will have the chance to be entered into a draw to win one of five copies of Collins Field Guide to Mammals of Britain and Europe by David Macdonald and Priscilla Barrett.
Mammal enthusiasts have until National Mammal Week at the end of October to cast their vote.
Voters are encouraged to share how they selected their favourite with #UKMammalPoll.
Vote in the UK Mammal Poll now.