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Boost of £14.5 Million in Funding for England's Most Endangered Species


England's efforts to revive its endangered species have received a substantial boost, with Natural England, the government's advisory body, granting £14.5 million in funding. This funding is set to benefit a range of species, from water voles in London to crayfish in Yorkshire, with a focus on initiatives like breeding programs and habitat improvements.

It's estimated that around 15% of England's species face the threat of extinction. Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, emphasized that past recovery initiatives have demonstrated their effectiveness in addressing this issue. Notable successes include the significant increase in the bittern population, the recovery of the fen raft spider, and the successful reintroduction of water voles to areas where they had disappeared.

Among the funded projects is the Wiltshire Chalk Partnership, aiming to restore 2,000 hectares of flower-rich grasslands, a critical habitat for insects such as butterflies. The partnership, composed of conservation organizations like RSPB, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, and the Pewsey Downs Farmer Group, hopes this funding will lead to the thriving of specific butterfly species, including the wart-biter bush cricket, marsh fritillary, large blue, Adonis blue, and the Duke of Burgundy.

These species are considered habitat specialists, relying on specific environments to flourish. However, the expansion of farmland and urban areas has put their habitats at risk. These species play a vital role in the overall ecosystem, serving as a food source for birds and bats and aiding in plant pollination.

The United Kingdom is recognized as one of the world's most nature-depleted countries. Despite the government's 25-year Environment Plan launched in 2018, a recent report by the independent Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) raised concerns about the achievement of many of the government's 23 environmental targets.

Investing in the preservation of the UK's natural environment is also crucial for global species conservation efforts. For instance, the White-clawed crayfish, another species supported by this funding, is considered endangered worldwide, with a drastic 70% decline in the UK. The introduction of non-native North American signal crayfish has introduced diseases that the native crayfish have no natural resistance to, and freshwater rivers and streams, their natural habitat, have become increasingly polluted in recent years.

One of the funded projects, the Claws for Thought Project, will use the grant to establish a new rearing facility to support crayfish in their vulnerable early stages. This project has achieved a 60% success rate in getting animals to breeding age, a significantly higher rate compared to the wild.

Other species set to benefit from this two-year program include the large marsh grasshopper, lapwings, and the grey long-eared bat.