Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
Whether it’s due to climate change, threats from non-native species, habitat decline, or human encroachment, many native animal and plant species are under threat of extinction. The United Kingdom is a comparatively small country with a high population, and only 5% of the UK is protected land, leading to many native species of mammals, insects, and plants being on the decline for the past few decades. (Independent)
With more species being added to the endangered and critically endangered list than ever before, it helps to be able to identify some of these animals so we can all do our part in preserving their populations before they’re gone.
Let’s look at 10 of the most heartbreaking UK endangered species statistics to know this year.
The 10 UK Endangered Species Statistics
- There are currently 67 birds on the UK conservation “red list.”
- The UK conservation Bird Red List contains 20 recent additions.
- The Wryneck is the first once-widespread bird species to have been lost as a breeding bird in the UK in nearly 200 years.
- Almost half of the UK’s native birds are at risk of extinction.
- One-quarter of the UK’s native mammal population is at risk of extinction.
- The UK’s native wildlife population has plummeted by an average of 60% since 1970.
- One in seven of the UK’s 8,400 native wildlife, insect, and fungi species are at risk of being completely lost.
- The UK’s Long-Eared Bat population numbers just 1,000.
- Hedgehog numbers in the UK have halved since 2007.
- The iconic British Turtledove has declined by a whopping 97% since 1970.
Native UK Bird Populations Rapidly Declining
1. There are currently 67 birds on the UK conservation “Red List.”
The UK’s leading bird conservation organizations have worked with thousands of volunteers who count native birds and perform surveys to assess the birds in the UK that are currently under imminent threat of extinction. With all this hard work, birds have become some of the best-monitored groups of wildlife in the UK, but unfortunately, the news is not good. Amber lists are birds of moderate concern, but it’s the red list that is worrying most researchers, with a staggering 67 species currently under threat.
This includes the Long-Tailed Duck, Black Grouse, White-Tailed Eagle, Woodcock, Cuckoo, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Starling, and Nightingale.
2. The UK conservation Bird Red List contains 20 recent additions.
If the sheer number of endangered birds on the UK red list is not enough, 20 more have recently been added. Most alarming is the addition of upland bird species, many of which rely on the UK for breeding, and seabird species, the loss of which can severely affect marine ecosystems.
3. The Wryneck is the first once-widespread bird species to have been lost as a breeding bird in the UK in nearly 200 years.
Wrynecks were once common breeding birds in the UK, breeding in 54 UK counties in the 19th century. Wrynecks need a specific habitat and depend on trees for nesting and protection. The intensification of agriculture has rapidly destroyed native woodlands — their primary nesting areas — across the UK.
Native UK Species Facing Extinction
4. Almost half of the UK’s native birds are at risk of extinction.
A frightening 41% — almost half — of the UK’s native bird species have been in decline since the 1970s.
5. One-quarter of the UK’s native mammal population is at risk of extinction.
The first official red list for British Mammals shows that 11 of the 47 mammals native to the UK are at risk of extinction, with a further five species at near risk of becoming threatened. Native species at risk of extinction include the Red Squirrel, Hedgehog, and Greater Mouse-Eared Bat. The main reasons for this are habitat loss due to agriculture, non-native species, and human encroachment.
6. The UK’s native wildlife population has plummeted by an average of 60% since 1970.
The UK’s most important wildlife populations have dropped by an average of 60% since the 1970s, with the area inhabited by “priority species” like hares and hedgehogs having shrunk by 27%. The decline of habitat and species population also shows no sign of stopping — 41% have decreased, while only 26% have increased.
Researchers examined data of almost 7,00 species from the last 50 years to reach this conclusion, citing agriculture expansion and the consequent increase in the use of pesticides as the main culprit for this species decline. Pesticide use has increased by 53% between 1990 and 2010 in the UK. While wildlife-friendly farming backed by the government has helped slow the decline, it has not halted or shown any reverse on the impact of agriculture.
7. One in seven of the UK’s 8,400 native wildlife, insect, and fungi species are at risk of being completely lost.
(The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species)
Endangered species are not limited to birds and other small mammals; insects and plant life are in danger too. There are 440 plants, 232 fungi and lichen, and 405 invertebrates in danger of extinction in the UK. Plants, insects, and fungi play integral roles in the ecosystem, and without key species, there will certainly be an associated decline in mammal populations too.
Declining UK Key Species
8. The UK’s Long-Eared Bat numbers just 1,000.
The Grey Long-eared Bat, one of the rarest bat species in the UK, has declined in population to just an estimated 1,000, making them one of the most at-risk mammals in the UK. This is mostly due to their shrinking feeding and foraging sites, along with predation from domestic cats.
9. Hedgehog numbers in the UK have halved since 2007.
(The British Hedgehog Preservation Society)
Hedgehogs have been added to the IUCN Red List, and their numbers have been estimated to have dropped by half since 2007. This has been attributed largely to the loss of hedgerows in the UK caused by mono-crop agriculture, the loss of insect life to pesticides (wild hedgehogs’ primary diet is insects), and their vulnerability to traffic on roads.
10. The iconic British Turtledove has declined by a whopping 97% since 1970.
The British Turtledove is the fastest declining bird species in the UK, and their numbers dropped from an estimated 125,000 pairs in the late 1960s to fewer than 5,000 in 2016, an almost 97% decline. This is largely driven by habitat destruction, with British meadows and grasslands declining due to pesticide use in agriculture. Turtledoves need these wildflower meadows to feed and nest, and the destruction of these areas has caused an alarming decline in Turtledove populations.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the most endangered animal in the UK?
The Scottish Wildcat is thought to be the rarest animal in the UK. These cats look like domestic tabby cats but are twice the size and far more ferocious! There are thought to be fewer than 400 of these cats left in the wild. (People’s Trust for Endangered Species)
How many critically endangered animals are there in the UK?
An estimated one in 10 wildlife species in the UK is at risk of extinction. In terms of critically endangered animals, there are 165 in the UK alone. (Wired)
Are butterflies endangered in the UK?
Unfortunately, yes. Only 28 butterfly species of the UK’s 59 are classified under least concern, while eight species are endangered and nine are highly vulnerable. (Butterfly Conservation)
The UK is a small country with a high population, and only around 5% of the land in the UK is protected. (Independent)
With this in mind, it’s not that surprising that the country would have so many threatened species, especially considering that the UK is now considered one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. (Natural History Museum)
The introduction of widespread agriculture and associated pesticide use and habitat destruction and the introduction of non-native species have caused an alarming decline in the native populations of plants and mammals in the UK, and we need to act quickly before many of these species are lost forever.
Featured Image Credit: HelgaKa, Pixabay