Rewilding Britain

You could be forgiven to think that rewilding is all about providing habitat and reintroducing species long lost…

Sometimes nature conservation and rewilding can be about removing something.

Think about the ‘classics’ of ill-fated, intentional or otherwise, introductions with unintended consequences:

– rats on remote islands (example: South Georgia)
– rabbits (example: Australia)
– Himalayan balsam (example: river banks in the UK)
– Japanese knotweed (example: eradication in the UK)
– red fire ants (example: Hong Kong)
– slugs (example: Russia)
– ash tree dieback (example: Scotland)
– north American signal crabs (example: all of Europe)
– possum (example: New Zealand)

But you know all that!

And now, a new story emerged: Britain’s reptiles are being wiped out by yet another introduction: pheasants! (…around 25 thousand of them near me, with the consequence that I can’t grow lettuce or cabbages, crocus or fritillary…but that’s another story).

An article in the Guardian revealed that slow worms, lizards and adders could be extinct in Britain within a few years. Yes, surprisingly, even adders don’t have a defence against these birds, whose feather armour cannot be penetrated by their bite.

Fortyseven million pheasants are reared and released every year in the UK to be shot (at).

Pheasant Pens, Compton End
Pheasant pens where young birds are reared before being released. “Pheasant Pens, Compton End” by Pierre Terre is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Around half of them (yes, twenty-odd million!) survive each season…

…and commence living in the wild and foraging.

Why do we allow this? Collectively?

We spend millions and years on clearing rats off islands in some far-flung ocean to protect the ground nesting birds put in jeopardy by careless actions of our forebears.

And yet we turn a blind eye to the damage caused by the game bird industry in the UK. Right here in the ‘green and pleasant land’, which is not that pleasant in all its aspects if you look a little closer.

Young pheasants startled
Young female pheasants in a garden. Young female pheasants: “Young pheasants startled” by Ian-S is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

There is a very easy remedy: STOP the breding and release of millions of pheasants on British soil each year! As a result, the population of pheasants would decrease over time, as they are ground nesting and hence not very successful breeding in the wild.

What is more important, the protection of British wildlife and functioning ecosystems or the interests of those benefitting from or enjoying shooting animals?

Personal comment: how about taking this story as a motivation to focus attention on keeping non-native species off British soil, rather than focusing on keeping non-natives a of our own species out of the country? But that’s another story!

Image Credits
Featured Image: “Slow worm. ( legless lizard )” by pete. #hwcp is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Pheasant Pens: “Pheasant Pens, Compton End” by Pierre Terre is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Young female pheasants: “Young pheasants startled” by Ian-S is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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