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Impact of lockdowns on our sites

Impact of lockdowns on our sites

Following the UK Government’s announcement of a four week lockdown in England we have now received clarification on how the regulations will affect WWT sites.

Nights, camera, action! Device to record voyaging eels during hours of darkness installed at Gloucestershire reserve marking World Fish Migration Day

Nights, camera, action! Device to record voyaging eels during hours of darkness installed at Gloucestershire reserve marking World Fish Migration Day

A new acoustic camera has been fitted at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre to monitor eels embarking on their epic migratory voyage.

WWT Wetland Centres to welcome back schools

WWT Wetland Centres to welcome back schools

WWT Wetland Centres will open their doors to school pupils from December 1. Forced to close their doors to such excursions in March, the conservation charity is pleased to be able to once again help children reconnect with nature in a safe and secure environment. A survey conducted by the charity Young Minds revealed that 80% of children felt that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse. Young people across the UK have had their lives turned upside down by the pandemic, having had to adjust to dramatic changes in their education, routines and home life. The positive impact of time spent in natural environments is well documented and a visit to wetlands allows children the time and space to reap the benefits of the wild outdoors. WWT’s National Formal Learning Manager Mark Stead said: “We’re so excited to be welcoming schools back to our wetland centres. It hasn’t been the same without them and many of our regular visitors have told us that they’ve missed seeing children learning about the importance of protecting wetlands and their wildlife. “The last few months have been a challenging time for teachers and we’ve been working hard to ensure that they and their pupils can still have a fantastic time whilst remaining safe on site. It will be great to once again see children’s faces light up as they discover the wonder of wetlands and their wildlife.” WWT’s curriculum-linked learning sessions make the most of the sprawling open-air environment at the wetland centres and are suitable for a range of ages and abilities. Led by experienced staff, sessions are hands-on, promoting learning through exploration and discovery. Staff have been spending the last few months putting in place all of the steps necessary to keep school groups and other visitors safe and are now taking bookings. All of the wetland centres have been accredited with the “We’re Good to Go” UK wide Covid-19 safety standard which ensures WWT is operating within the relevant government and public health guidance in relation to Coronavirus. As the current situation remains uncertain, WWT are also guaranteeing that schools can re-book or cancel free of charge should they be unable to visit due to coronavirus. To find out more, visit WWT’s Learning Zone to find out what’s happening at each centre.

Famous artist’s work up for auction to raise money for spoon-billed sandpipers

Famous artist’s work up for auction to raise money for spoon-billed sandpipers

Internationally renowned bird sculptor, Guy Taplin, whose works have been snapped up by the likes of Michael Palin and Jacqueline Onassis, is selling one of his bird sculptures to help WWT save the spoon-billed sandpiper.

WWT receives cash boost from Disney Conservation Fund to continue to improve wetlands for people and wildlife in Madagascar

WWT receives cash boost from Disney Conservation Fund to continue to improve wetlands for people and wildlife in Madagascar

UK charity WWT has been awarded a $49,600 grant by the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) for its work to save the world’s rarest duck, the Madagascar pochard. The conservation charity has been working in the northern regions of the island to restore a vast wetland, Lake Sofia, back to its former glory, to help support the animals and the communities that depend on it for their livelihoods. To do this, WWT have been working with communities to develop sustainable ways of managing their natural environment, from education and training to securing land rights and encouraging more diverse agricultural practices. They have also been working across the country to promote better management of wetlands, creating a national network of wetland managers and providing them with the skills and tools they need to maintain them. In 2018, WWT and partner Durrell Wildlife Conservation Fund released a flock of Madagascar pochards, bred in captivity, onto the lake with the help of villagers – and they bred successfully last year. The DCF, celebrating its 25th anniversary year, has been supporting local efforts around the world aimed at saving wildlife, inspiring action and protecting the planet with more than $100 million distributed to non-profit organizations since 1995. Project Manager Peter Cranswick welcomed the news. He said: “We’ve made many strides towards improving the condition and management of Lake Sofia, so much so that we’ve been able to reintroduce a near-extinct duck to the wetland, but importantly go beyond that - we’ve also been able to help the communities there who rely on it. “This year has been a difficult year for charities and conservation has taken a big hit, but thanks to the continued support of the Disney Conservation Fund, we can build on the advances we’ve made so far to improve wetland management across northern Madagascar.” DCF grant recipients are selected based on their efforts to implement comprehensive community wildlife conservation programs, stabilize and increase populations of at-risk animals and engage communities in conservation in critical ecosystems around the world. For information on Disney’s commitment to conserve nature and a complete list of grant recipients, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

Fall for nature’s spectacle at WWT wetland centres this autumn

Fall for nature’s spectacle at WWT wetland centres this autumn

Just as wetlands offer sanctuary to thousands of animals over the colder months, they also make the perfect place to safely escape the everyday and appreciate one of nature’s greatest shows - autumn. For our wetlands, it is a spectacular time of year. The first of our migratory birds arrive, having flown vast distances in search of food and warmth to shelter and our reserves transform into an impressive patchwork of rich textures and dazzling colour displays, as leaves turn amber, fruits and berries emerge from the hedgerows and fairy tale fungus sprout underfoot. In fact, autumn is perhaps the nicest time of year to explore wetlands whatever the weather. They provide an abundance of space and fresh air for nature lovers to enjoy endless skies and epic sunsets. Comfortable hides, situated throughout all our reserves, ensure visitors can protect themselves from the elements without missing out on amazing seasonal scenes. WWT’s nine wetland centres across the UK each have their own unique features to ensure there is something for everyone wherever they live. From 40,000 pink footed geese touching down at WWT Martin Mere for the winter - a spectacle that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world – to nearly the entire population of Svalbard barnacle geese arriving at WWT Caerlaverock in their thousands, there are few better ways to unwind and refocus. Hannah Clifford from WWT said: “Our WWT wetland centres are ideal places to immerse yourself in nature and there is no better time to see what the wetlands in your area have to offer than autumn. “Our wetlands are safe havens where people can explore the outdoors, focus some energy inwards and look after themselves. It’s been a difficult period, but our wetlands promise to provide an escape from the everyday and a discovery of peace and tranquillity.” All WWT wetland centres have the ‘We’re Good to Go’ stamp of approval, a UK-wide industry standard which has been developed in partnership with Visit England, Tourism Northern Ireland, Visit Scotland and Visit Wales. The accreditation means visitors can rest assured that WWT is doing everything to ensure they operate within the relevant government and public health guidance for managing coronavirus risk. These measures include managing numbers on site, ensuring social distancing and thorough cleaning regimes. To safely manage numbers on site, all visitors are all asked to book online (whether a WWT member or not).To find your nearest WWT wetland centre and to book tickets, visit wwt.org.uk/visit WWT has nine wetland centres at Arundel (Hampshire), Caerlaverock ( Dumfries, Scotland), Castle Espie (County Down, Northern Ireland), Llanelli (Carmarthenshire, Wales), London (at Barnes), Martin Mere (Lancashire), Slimbridge (Gloucestershire), Washington (Tyne & Wear) and Welney (Norfolk). For more info visit: wwt.org.uk

Our response to the UN’s GBO-5 report: Humanity at a crossroads

Our response to the UN’s GBO-5 report: Humanity at a crossroads

Summary The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 (GBO-5) report, published by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on 15 September, offers an authoritative overview of the state of nature now. It is a school report on the world’s progress in meeting the 20 global biodiversity targets agreed in 2010 to be met in 2020, and offers lessons learned and best practices for getting on track. The just published GBO-5 report warns that despite encouraging progress in several areas, the natural world is suffering badly and getting worse. It finds that only six of the world’s 20 biodiversity goals have been partially achieved by the 2020 deadline. It highlights that action on biodiversity is essential to address climate change, long-term food security and health and advocates that the time for action on all these issues is now. To this end, the GBO-5 report recommends that transformative changes (transitions) are urgently needed in eight key areas to ensure human wellbeing and to save the planet. These are: The land and forests transitionThe sustainable agriculture transitionThe sustainable food systems transitionThe sustainable fisheries and oceans transitionThe cities and infrastructure transitionThe sustainable freshwater transitionThe sustainable climate action transitionThe biodiversity-inclusive One Health transition See here for more details on these transitions. WWT’s response The bad news: James Robinson, Director of Conservation, from WWT says: WWT, along with most in the conservation world and beyond, are sadly not surprised that the GBO-5 report shows that the world has failed to meet any of the twenty 2020 UN biodiversity targets and has only made partial progress towards six. It is, nonetheless deeply disappointing and a huge concern for the world. The UN Convention on Biodiversity Executive Secretary, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema underlines the seriousness and urgency for action by saying: …The rate of biodiversity loss is unprecedented in human history and pressures are intensifying. Earth’s living systems as a whole are being compromised... As nature degrades new opportunities emerge for the spread to humans and animals of devastating diseases like this year’s coronavirus. The window of time available is short, but the pandemic has also demonstrated that transformative changes are possible when they must be made. We are particularly concerned that the 2020 freshwater biodiversity targets were not even partially met. The report highlights the continuing rapid global decline of global wetlands. This decline significantly reduces the worldwide availability of freshwater for people and wildlife, the ability for communities to alleviate flooding and tolerate drought – a growing concern in a changing climate, amounts of carbon storage available and food provision, amongst other things. GBO-5 recognises that the fragmentation of rivers remains a critical threat to freshwater biodiversity and finds that 40% of the planet’s species which live in these ecosystems are rapidly declining. The way forward As the report states humanity is now at a crossroads in relation to nature’s diversity of species and ecosystems. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema urges we take the right road saying: The decisions and level of action we take now will have profound consequences for good or ill for all species, including ours. The action that the report recommends are eight major transitions to halt and slow biodiversity decline by 2030. These transformative changes call for a shift away from “business as usual” across a broad range of human activities to increase biodiversity, restore ecosystems and reduce the negative impacts of human activity. We are encouraged to see that one of the GBO-5’s eight major transitions is dedicated to halting freshwater biodiversity loss. The GBO-5 sustainable freshwater transition: An integrated approach guaranteeing the water flows required by nature and people, improving water quality, protecting critical habitats, controlling invasive species and safeguarding connectivity to allow the recovery of freshwater systems from mountains to coasts. This transition recognizes the importance of biodiversity in maintaining the multiple roles of freshwater ecosystems to support human societies and natural processes, including linkages with terrestrial, coastal and marine environments. We call for these eight major transitions, including the sustainable freshwater transition, to be integrated into the post-2020 targets adopted at the Convention on Biodiversity’s 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties at the (COP-15) in 2021. We believe that the rigorous global application of the GBO-5’s sustainable freshwater transition will be instrumental in helping the world slow the rapid decline in freshwater species and ecosystems and to ultimately achieve 2030 biodiversity targets. This freshwater transition is key to saving one of the planet’s most biodiverse habitats, hosting more species per square kilometre than land or oceans, which is also losing its extraordinary biodiversity two or three times faster than other habitats. The 2020 Freshwater Living Planet Index published on 10 September, found that one in three freshwater species are now threatened with extinction. Humans are also particularly reliant on good freshwater biodiversity – relying on this habitat’s diverse ecosystems for water, food, livelihoods, and protection from floods, droughts and storms. James Robinson, states: To put it simply, fix freshwater biodiversity and you’re saving a disproportionately high number of wildlife, ecosystems and people. Meeting freshwater biodiversity targets in the next decade and beyond is key for halting overall biodiversity decline and in meeting global sustainability and climate change goals. We’re particularly encouraged to note that the GBO-5 sustainable freshwater transition strongly overlaps with the Bending the Curve of Global Freshwater Biodiversity Loss: Emergency Recovery Report published in Biosciences in February 2020. Developed by a global team of scientists from WWT, WWF, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Conservation International, the University of Cardiff and other eminent institutions, the report contains six key recommendations, rooted in cutting edge science and proven success: Letting rivers flow more naturally Reducing pollution Protecting critical wetland habitats Ending overfishing and unsustainable sand mining in rivers and lakes Controlling invasive species Safeguarding and restoring river connectivity through better planning of dams and other infrastructure Financial Resources The GBO-5 report states that in all an estimated annual $78-91 billion is available globally for protecting biodiversity, however ‘estimates of biodiversity finance needs are conservatively estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars.’ What is currently being spent on biodiversity is falling short of what is needed. Moreover, the report notes that resources for biodiversity are swamped by financial support for activities harmful to biodiversity. It says, ‘these include $500 billion in fossil fuel and other subsidies that potentially cause environmental harm, $100 billion of which relate to agriculture.’ WWT urges the parties at COP-15 to prioritise and increase the financial resource available for biodiversity and shift subsidies to empower rapid transitions to more environmentally friendly land use. Global Green Recovery We agree with the report’s comments that the world needs to make space for nature as we rebuild after Covid. This reflects the objective of the growing green recovery movement, of which WWT is part, that is lobbying world leaders to build back better for nature after the devastation of the Covid pandemic and in doing so reduce the risk of further pandemics. Bright spots We also welcome the bright spots contained within the GBO-5 report. This includes ‘deforestation rates continuing to fall, eradication of invasive alien species from islands is increasing and awareness of biodiversity appears to be increasing.’ In addition, evidence shows that between 28 and 48 bird and mammal species have been saved from going extinct since 1993 through conservation action. However, “The actions that have been taken need to be significantly scaled up, move from being project driven and become more systemic and broadened,” says Ms. Mrema. We agree that action for biodiversity needs to be scaled up, including for freshwater biodiversity. We believe the wide-scale application of the GBO-5 sustainable freshwater transition is a vital part of this broadening of action to halt overall biodiversity loss. SMART WWT calls for the 2030 biodiversity targets to be SMART so that they can be regularly monitored to check they are being met throughout the coming decade. We also advocate sustained support to meet targets at regional and local levels, through ‘on the ground’ capacity building activities and support networks. WWT continues to build capacity for wetland conservation throughout the world, and we have been working with the Convention on Biodiversity and the Ramsar Convention to advocate and demonstrate the success of this approach. What about the UK? WWT, along with other environmental charities across the UK, are urging our four nations’ governments to begin a ‘new era for nature’, following the publication of the GBO-5 report. We are calling for the UK to lead the charge for new targets and concerted global action to reverse our nature crisis. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being urged by WWT and other organisations to commit to a new UK era for nature by announcing at the UN Convention for Biodiversity summit on 30 September that the government will: protect at least 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030, and support a new global target and action plan to restore species and habitats with equivalent targets to be set in UK law under the Environment Bill. What now? At WWT, as a global charity specialising in conserving, creating and protecting biodiverse wetlands, we have long been demonstrating the importance of healthy freshwater biodiversity to the public and global decision makers. And we shall continue to campaign for freshwater biodiversity at the UN’s forthcoming Convention on Biodiversity summits. We’ve already seen some of the fruits of our campaigning in the strong overlap between our Emergency Recovery Report and the GBO-5’s freshwater transition. We now want to see all eight of the GBO-5’s major transitions, including the sustainable freshwater transition, and our Emergency Recovery Plan recommendations integrated into the upcoming Post-2020 Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity. We will push for, and support, greater implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity. If countries develop properly resourced implementation plans, we believe this will go a long way to reverse nature’s decline by 2030 to create a society that can function in harmony with nature by 2050. What can you do to help? We must act now to ‘bend the curve’ for freshwater biodiversity: Help WWT continue to push freshwater biodiversity up the agenda, by asking the UK government to lobby at the UN Convention on Biodiversity on 30 September for the adoption GBO-5’s freshwater transition and our Emergency Recovery Plan. Email us at advocacy@wwt.org.uk and we can provide advice and help with how to do this To help us continue to campaign for increased freshwater biodiversity when our finances have been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic please consider donating to our emergency appeal

Living Planet Report shows a dramatic decline in freshwater species - giving more urgency to implement Emergency Recovery Plan

Living Planet Report shows a dramatic decline in freshwater species - giving more urgency to implement Emergency Recovery Plan

A key element of the 2020 Living Planet Report's Freshwater Deep Dive, this scientific paper outlines a revolutionary plan to reverse the rapid decline in the world’s freshwater species and habitats while protecting our life support systems.

Our response to the State of the Environment speech

Our response to the State of the Environment speech

In response to Sir James Bevan's speech today at the launch of the Environment Agency's State of the Environment report, WWT's Director of Conservation, Dr James Robinson said: Sir James is right to say investing in a healthy environment is about the smartest thing we can do, and we cannot have that healthy environment without healthy wetlands. We depend upon our wetlands for many of the essentials of life yet we have lost 90%, and many of those that remain are in a degraded or fragmented condition. We know that being by such blue spaces is one of the best things for your wellbeing, with access to good quality urban blue space helping to support healthier, more sustainable behaviour, alongside many other benefits. In 2018 the Government set an aim for more people from all backgrounds to engage with and spend time in green and blue spaces in their everyday lives. They were right to do this and, 2½ years on, the Covid pandemic has shown just how much people need this. Access to urban blue space remains unequal and public health overall is poor, yet wetlands can play a big role in helping to change this. From installing garden ponds and street planters to building neighbourhood rain gardens and community wetlands, there is so much we can do to provide people with easy access to benefit their wellbeing on a daily basis. As it decides where to invest public money for the UK’s recovery, we urge the Government to make this a blue recovery which invests in wetlands as essential blue infrastructure to protect public health, build a resilient economy and repair our environment. Our mission for wetlands We're researching ways that wetlands can help our wellbeing, so everyone will recognise the amazing things nature can do for both us and wildlife. Find out more

EU countries choose health over poison in historic vote to ban lead shot in wetlands

EU countries choose health over poison in historic vote to ban lead shot in wetlands

A huge leap towards ending the suffering of millions of waterbirds from lead poisoning has been taken following a momentous vote to ban lead shot in and around wetlands.

The only black-winged stilts to hatch in the UK this year have successfully fledged in Somerset

The only black-winged stilts to hatch in the UK this year have successfully fledged in Somerset

A trio of black-winged stilt chicks have flown the nest at WWT Steart Marshes, where to the disbelief of conservationists, they hatched last month. This is the first time the rare wader has ever nested at the reserve and it is the most western point in the UK that black-winged stilts have ever bred. Black-winged stilts are a rare breeding bird in the UK, and when they do it is usually specific to the south east of England however the changing climate is bringing new species to new areas of Britain. As this particular little water bird is site-faithful, this exciting development increases the chances of a small population forming at WWT Steart. Watch the video Alys Laver, Site Manager at WWT Steart, welcomed the news. She said: “We’ve been spoiled. From the first sighting of these unusual visitors, to the discovery of a nest, and the arrival of three healthy chicks, what more could we want than all of them to successfully fledge? There’s finally something to shout about in 2020! “Steart Marshes is still a relatively new habitat, having been created just six years ago and this is a perfect example of how quickly wetlands can start to support wildlife, local and rare, with a little TLC. “Now that the chicks can fly, they’ve passed the most dangerous stage of a bird’s life. We hope they’ll come back and visit us next summer – and who knows, maybe they’ll even breed here again.” Black-winged stilts are large black-and-white waders with long reddish-pink legs, mainly found in Southern Europe. As global temperatures rise, black-winged stilts have been increasingly sighted in the UK searching for marshy wetlands to raise their chicks, but fledglings are still extremely rare. Conservationists agree that more wetlands are needed to support new visiting species such as great and cattle egret as the climate warms. The changing climate has also changed how far visiting summer species have to travel south for the winter with many black-winged stilts stopping off in the Mediterranean rather than sub-Saharan Africa. Alys added: “We wish them well on their winter migration. “Meanwhile we’ll be managing water levels over the next year to make sure our freshwater areas are in the best possible condition for their return.”

WWT welcomes new Chair, Barnaby Briggs

WWT welcomes new Chair, Barnaby Briggs

This week, Barnaby Briggs was elected Chair of WWT by a unanimous vote from his fellow Trustees He steps into the role previously held by Peter Day who sadly passed away in July. Barnaby brings with him extensive experience from the conservation and energy sector where he has worked for decades to address environmental and social issues. Having previously held the role of Energy and Transport Policy Officer at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for six years, he helped the RSPB to coordinate an international biodiversity response to the Kyoto climate negotiations, and address other policy issues around transport, including the impacts of UK and European roads on biodiversity. He also spent 14 years at Shell where he ran the Social Performance Management Unit, providing policy, best practice and guidance. Most recently he has been working in Mozambique, helping a gas project improve its social impacts there by setting up a large-scale agriculture project. He arrives in the new role well-equipped with the skills to help lead WWT in the face of a climate and ecological emergency. Barnaby said: "It is a real privilege to be elected Chair of WWT after sitting on the Board of Trustees for nine years.Peter Day was Chair for much too short a time, and we all miss his hard work and humour. “We are entering a critical period for our environment as nature faces the growing threats of climate change and biodiversity loss. “But we know that wetlands are natural super-systems where wildlife and people thrive. We all depend on them, given their ability to capture carbon and prevent flooding. WWT has shown how to build and support bigger, better wetlands, and has exciting plans for the future. “I am humbled to be given a chance to help steer WWT through this ecological crisis as we press governments to adopt a green recovery to put nature, climate and wetlands at the heart of policy decisions for the benefit of all. “Nature and wildlife mean so many different things to so many different people but once it’s gone, it’s lost for ever. I take on this role, knowing that WWT has never been more relevant in the fight for a more sustainable future.” Kevin Peberdy, Chief Operating Officer, added: “It is with great pleasure that I welcome Barnaby as Chair on behalf of WWT. Barnaby is a long serving Trustee with a real understanding of WWT and brings with him a strong grasp of the wider environmental issues that we now face in the UK and internationally. We very much look forward to working with him going forward as we re-focus our efforts for wetlands and the wildlife and people that depend on them.”

Swans reserve aggression for each other, new research has found

Swans reserve aggression for each other, new research has found

Despite their hostile reputations, swans ruffle each other's feathers rather than other birds, according to a study commissioned by WWT and the University of Exeter. Of all three swan species observed; whooper, Bewick’s and mute swans were most frequently antagonistic to, and received most aggression, from their own species. The findings suggest that similar individuals are the greatest competition for food and other resources such as shelter, which can lead to conflict. The study was undertaken to better understand how swan behaviour affects other waterbirds over winter. The data was collected by monitoring live-stream webcams on reserves at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire and WWT Caerlaverock Wetland Centre in Dumfries over the past two years. It’s one of the first studies that has relied completely on remotely collected data and could be one of the solutions to continuing research with restrictions in place during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr Kevin Woods, Principal Research Officer at WWT and one of the authors on the paper, which has been published in the journal Avian Research, said: “We know that swans have a reputation for aggressiveness but some of us suspected that in reality a lot of the aggression was directed towards other swans rather than other birds such as ducks or geese. “To test that idea, we recruited some great students who used the webcams at Slimbridge and Caerlaverock to collect behavioural data on aggressive interactions between the various waterbirds at those sites over the past two winters. “As we expected, our suspicions were right. In fact, almost all of the waterbird species in our study were most aggressive to their own species, which makes ecological sense as the individuals that are most similar to you are your greatest competition for food and other resources. It's valuable to finally have the data to show that and it’s another rung on the ladder of better informed judgement on swans.” University of Exeter Researcher Paul Rose added: “This is a great example of how undergraduate projects can really help wild conservation action by allowing students to practice key research techniques but at the same time collecting data that is valuable to field scientists. We'd been thinking of using the WWT webcams for a while, to learn more about the swans' behaviour without disturbing them, and this project on aggression and species differences seemed to beneficial to the needs of WWT's conservation work and to the students fulfilling the requirements of their degrees." Across whoopers, Bewick’s and mutes, aggression between the same species accounted for up to 80% of negative interactions. Bewick’s swans in particular were more likely to behave aggressively with one another, which could reflect their extreme lifestyles which involves a 7000km migration across a continent twice a year. The number of wintering Bewick’s swans in the UK have declined by 39% in north-west Europe between 1995 and 2010. Conservationists have theorised that this may be due to competing with mute and whoopers swans at their summer site in arctic Russia, however these findings show it is unlikely. The study has also helped show how remotely-collected data can inform scientific research, without causing as much disturbance to birds and reducing carbon footprint in terms of travel. It is likely to become an increasingly useful tool as conservationists try to carry out research while potential for field-work is limited. The next step is to study other water birds to see how their behaviour alters depending on the presence and number of swans.The paper, published in the journal Avian Research, is entitled: "Aggressive behavioural interactions between swans (Cygnus spp.) and other waterbirds during winter: a webcam-based study."

WWT joins coalition calling for long-term plan for England's beavers

WWT joins coalition calling for long-term plan for England's beavers

The Government should allow wild beavers to remain in England and expand naturally through river catchments, with robust local management and monitoring of the animals, say members of a coalition which includes WWT. The call for an English Beaver Strategy – a long-term plan for restoring beaver populations in the country – follows the UK Government’s groundbreaking decision earlier this month to allow England’s first breeding population of beavers for 400 years to remain in the River Otter in Devon, after a trial that highlighted how beavers benefit people and wildlife. The wide-ranging English Beaver Strategy Working Group – made up of 39 organisations including the National Farmers' Union (NFU), Wild Trout Trust, Thames Water, National Trust and RSPB, were brought together by the small charity Beaver Trust to form a consensus on the future of beavers in England. Together, they sent proposals for an English Beaver Strategy to Defra and Natural England today (August 14). Although not everyone in the Working Group can support the detailed proposals for restoring beavers, all agree collaboration is the key – and a long-term plan for beavers is essential. This follows two months of engagement and represents a major step forward after Defra’s news on August 6 that beavers on the River Otter may remain. James Wallace, Director of Beaver Trust and convenor of the English Beaver Strategy Working Group, says: “It is critical for people with different views to collaborate on how to co-exist with beavers. These ecosystem engineers could help us tackle issues across river catchments like water security, floods, pollution and loss of wildlife. Beavers can help improve our lives and livelihoods, and their wetlands reconnect people with the rest of nature. “Like beavers, this collaboration is a symbol of hope in challenging and often polarised times. Understandably, some people are concerned about beavers returning to heavily-managed land and rivers. We recognise the need to help mitigate risks of negative impacts on farmland, watercourses and infrastructure – and so we are convening diverse interest groups to create a strategy that works for everyone. The trick with beavers is to start early, raise awareness, engage communities and ensure funding and local support are in place well before they return.” Members of the group are asking the Government to recognise beavers as native with appropriate legal status in England and to ensure safeguards enable timely, responsible and effective management and their reintegration into the landscape.They have requested: ● Government asked to allow wild beaver populations to remain and expand naturally in England ● Beavers should be recognised as native and given appropriate legal status ● Robust national management framework with funding and local support is required ● Licensed releases including from enclosures should be planned on suitable river catchments ● Government asked for a timeline to agree a beaver restoration plan with a 25 year visionThe Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) co-evolved in Britain with other native wildlife such as fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and invertebrates. It is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ in England on the IUCN-compliant Red List. The beaver is a European Protected Species (EPS) in Europe under the EU Habitats Directive. EPS status was given to beavers in Scotland in 2019 and allows licensed management including translocation, dam removal and lethal control . England can learn from other countries how to achieve the right balance. A properly-resourced national management framework is needed with public and private funding and locally-led community support to help people live alongside beavers again, says the group. Led by Devon Wildlife Trust, the River Otter Beaver Trial resulted in the publication of a Science and Evidence Report and Beaver Management Strategy Framework using a hierarchy of increasing impact starting with education, risk avoidance, mitigation, then trapping and relocation, and finally lethal control.James Robinson, Director of Conservation at Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) says: "Beaver Trust's process has been a gold standard for stakeholder engagement. I am very impressed and may pinch it! We at WWT encourage other stakeholders to join up and be heard." Harry Barton, CEO of Devon Wildlife Trust, says: “The River Otter Beaver Trial has shown that beavers can thrive in the wild in England and that they and local communities can co-exist very well in a managed and productive landscape. It has also shown how potential benefits can be maximised and conflicts managed through engagement, landowner advice and support. This groundbreaking work should now form the basis of a national strategy and management framework so that communities across the country can benefit from these amazing animals. Partnership is the key to success, and we are delighted to be collaborating with around 40 organisations from a wide range of interests to make sure the success of the River Otter Beaver Trial expands into a green revolution in our wetland landscapes across the country.” Importantly within the English Beaver Strategy Working Group, land management groups and conservationists are working together, sharing experience and ensuring everyone is represented and heard. Ann Maidment, Director South West of CLA says: “Given the momentum and support for the reintroduction of the beaver in England, the CLA believe strongly in the importance of having a clear framework for their future management, including stakeholder consultation. We were therefore pleased to be involved in this strategy – working together collaboratively with other stakeholders, to ensure that the importance of the landowning, farming and fishing communities are represented and their rights protected.” Beaver Trust’s engagement process tries to ensure everyone is heard and compromise will be reached. There is a shared understanding that some members of the Working Group are not able to support the strategy proposals. Shaun Leonard, Director of Wild Trout Trust says: “Research shows the impact of beavers on trout and salmon can be both positive and negative. English rivers and their fish populations are already suffering from fragmentation of habitat due to tens of thousands of weirs and culverts. Beavers’ habitat engineering activity, including building dams, could be problematic for fish in many rivers. We can’t support the proposals at this stage, but by participating in the Working Group we will be able to influence the future strategy for beaver introductions and their management.” Members of the group say that a plan is needed for where and how to increase beaver populations in the wild as an integrated part of river catchment plans targeting areas where benefits outweigh the costs. The first enclosed beaver trial in England was at Ham Fen in 2002. There are now nine enclosures – including research sites at the Cornwall Beaver Project and Spains Hall Estate – where data shows the impacts of beaver-created wetlands on water flow, purity and biodiversity. Following unofficial releases, beavers live in wild, self-sustaining populations in some English rivers. In 2016, habitat mapping in Scotland showed 104,000 hectares of beaver-friendly habitat. Beavers could be integrated within existing catchment spatial plans in England including buffers to allow rivers to flow naturally and reduce conflict. Licensed releases, including from enclosures, should follow catchment assessments, community consultation and establishing local support groups. Emma Marsh, Director of RSPB England says: “The RSPB is pleased to be working in partnership with conservation, fishing, farming and forestry organisations to develop a national strategy for beavers in England and to ensure the right balance of protection and management for this species. We would like to see beavers restored to suitable habitat in England, living harmoniously alongside land managers and treasured by local communities for the benefits, including natural solutions to flood risks that they provide.” Beaver Trust and the English Beaver Strategy Working Group have encouraged Defra and Natural England to publish a timeline to engage with stakeholders. “We must welcome a new era of urgent, creative and respectful collaboration, where we listen to each other, put aside our differences and make decisions that benefit all members of the community. Everyone has a stake in our planet’s future, and, with the right support, the humble beaver can help restore the rivers that sustain us and much of our wildlife,” said Beaver Trust’s James Wallace.

WWT receives funding for ground-breaking Generation Wild initiative from ScottishPower Foundation

WWT receives funding for ground-breaking Generation Wild initiative from ScottishPower Foundation

New project will help connect young people with wetlands and nature.