Scientists have compiled the UK’s first official ‘red list’ of endangered species, revealing that a quarter of the nation’s native mammals are “at imminent risk of extinction.”
The list was created for the official nature agencies of England, Scotland and Wales, and has been approved by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The destruction of natural habitats, historic persecution, and alien invasive species are the main causes behind the risk of extinction.
Which animals are on the new red list of endangered species?
The list features 20 mammals in total, broken down into different categories.
“The three categories of threat - critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable - tell you about the probability of the animal becoming extinct within this imminent timeframe,” said Fiona Mathews, Professor at the University of Sussex and chair of the Mammal Society.
“All 20 species need urgent attention.”
A total of 11 endangered mammals on the list are “at imminent risk of extinction”, including the hedgehog, the wildcat, the red squirrel, the water vole, and the hazel dormouse.
An additional five mammals - such as the mountain hare - are classified as “near threatened,” which means they face a possible threat of extinction in the not so distant future.
The other four mammals include the wild boar and whiskered bat, however there is not enough data on these animals at the moment to make an accurate assessment of their situation.
Loss of habitat
There are a total of four bats on the UK’s red list, including the greatly endangered grey long-eared bat. There are now only 1,000 grey long-eared bats in the UK, due to a loss of meadows, which are the bats' natural habitat. Meadows have declined by 97 percent since 1945.
Additionally, the hazel dormouse is classed as vulnerable because of a loss of its natural habitat, while hedgehogs have also lost a great deal of their hedgerow habitats. The number of hedgehogs has roughly halved since 2007.
The UK’s population of endangered red squirrels has suffered a loss of more than 60 per cent in the past 13 years, due to disease spread by the more populous, and non-native eastern grey squirrels.
Tony Juniper, the chair of Natural England, said, “This is a wake-up call, but it is not too late to act. We are working with our partners to recover our threatened and widely loved mammals.”