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Cornwall Wildlife Warning

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11:17am 22nd May 2013
(Updated 11:17am 22nd May 2013)

We are warned we are not doing enough to protect Cornwall's wildlife.

A study has done a national stock-take of native species. It has found 60 percent are in decline. More than one in ten could soon disappear.

The grey partridge and water voles are among species already considered extinct in Cornwall.  

The Yellowhammer declined by 76% between 1999 and 2005 to only 13 pairs on Penwith Moors (only a handful left now). Snipe declined by 89% between 1984 and 2007 to only 6 pairs on Bodmin Moor. House sparrows and hedgehogs are also on a list of species that need protecting.

Plants have also been hit. Shoulder-striped clover, a moth associated with wet heathland, is extinct in Cornwall having last been recorded in 1981.  Wild asparagus was once plentiful along Cornwall's coast but is now considered internationally endangered.

On the coast Kittiwakes in Cornwall have declined dramatically over the past decade.  Bottle-nosed dolphins are in steep decline with a significant decrease of 95% in sighting numbers since 1990.   

Victoria Whitehouse, Head of Nature Conservation for Cornwall Wildlife Trust said: "There are success stories in Cornwall with organisations working together with landowners and farmers to protect key species like the chough, perennial centaury, pygmy rush and black oil beetle, and habitats like the heaths and moors of West Penwith.  However, this report shows that we still have a long way to go, and we will have to pull out all the stops to halt the decline of our local wildlife."

The decline in species in Cornwall has been caused by a variety of factors including the impact of climate change, fragmentation and inappropriate management of habitats, and presence of non-native species.

Victoria continued: "Our current and future health and happiness is dependent on nature.  We are all ultimately reliant on our natural environment for our food, clean water, flood storage, recreation and carbon capture. We need to work with new sectors like the business and health sectors, to find new approaches to tackling the challenges faced by our local species and habitats."

The report concludes that we cannot save wildlife either nationally or in Cornwall with nature reserves alone; there must be a step change in the way this problem is tackled for the environment and for people.  All parts of society have a role to play, from farmers and conservationists, to politicians and business leaders, to the public.

Victoria added: "We can all do something to help, from individual people through to large companies..  Individuals and businesses can become members of conservation organisations to help us continue our vital work. We can all welcome wildlife into our gardens by providing large shrubs, long grass areas, open compost heaps, ponds and log piles.  Recording wildlife and sending the records to local records centres is important as well, we cannot protect things unless we know where they are.  At the other end of the scale, developers should protect and enhance wildlife in Cornwall as part of new developments rather than exclude it."

"This is entirely possible if planned from an early stage with good locally knowledgeable ecologists on the design team. We are challenging all decision-makers to think differently about nature so that short term actions taken to address socio-economic problems today do not sacrifice the long term future of wildlife and our children’s future."

The RSPB in Cornwall said; "Cornwall, with its unique climate and dramatic scenery, has long been rich in wildlife. However, like never before that wildlife is under threat. On Bodmin Moor for instance we've seen dramatic declines in whinchat and snipe, while around our coasts kittiwake are becoming increasingly rare.  

"It's not all doom and gloom though. For the past decade conservationists have worked hard alongside farmers to help secure a future for the county's icon chough - with much success. This just goes to prove that you can reverse declines. We just need everyone to work together to do more of it!"

A spokesman for Butterfly Conservation said: "Butterflies and moths in Cornwall and the UK in general are facing long term and worrying declines as a loss of habitat and changes in climate take their toll.

"But these declines are reversible. By using a joined-up, landscape-scale approach to conservation that engages landowners, wildlife bodies and the public we can help ensure that butterflies, moths and other wildlife are present in Cornwall for future generations to enjoy."

Buglife in Cornwall said "Cornwall supports incredible wildlife riches, but the county is not immune from the pressures that have affected our wildlife elsewhere. Our wildlife is in serious trouble, and invertebrates are doing particularly badly - two thirds of UK invertebrate species are in decline."  

"The bog hoverfly has gone extinct from the county, and many of our bee species are struggling to survive in an increasingly degraded countryside. But there are glimmers of hope - the black oil beetle is still a common site around the Cornish coast path in spring."

You can read the full report here:

Kittiwake photo by Ben Andrew

11:17am 22nd May 2013

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