Ever heard of the saying as dead as a dodo? Well, there are also a number of animals in Scotland that are at risk of dying out if we are not careful.
Why are some animals at risk?
Some animals are decreasing significantly in number. This can happen for a variety of reasons:
- they have a history of being hunting or over-exploited
- they have not adapted well when non-native species have been introduced into Scotland
- they are vulnerable to changes or destruction of their natural habitat
- they have been affected by disease.
Which animals are protected?
Some animals at risk have special protection. There are a 22 animals, birds, insects and plants on the Species Action List. The government has drawn up an action plan to protect and save these animals, to try and maintain or increase their numbers.
The Scottish Wildcat the only cat to be found in the wild in Scotland. Once common across Europe, the Scottish Wildcat now exists only in certain parts of the country. Scottish wildcats have been affected by disease, interbreeding with domestic cats, and changes to their natural habitat.
The red squirrel is the only type of squirrel native to Britain, with 75% of the red squirrel population found in Scotland. However the numbers of red squirrels have declined significantly in the last 50 years.
Grey squirrels were reintroduced into the UK in the late 19th century, and this has made it much more difficult for the native red squirrel population to survive.
Great Crested Newt
There has been a huge decline in the number of Great Crested Newts across Scotland. The newts now mostly found in Dumfries and Galloway, the Borders, across the central belt and around Inverness. They have been affected to changes in their breeding ponds, through water pollution, and the introduction of fish into their breeding ponds.
Volunteers have been very successful in creating and restorting the newts breeding ponds and surrounding habitats. Find out more about how you can get involved in Environmental and Conservation Volunteering.
There is concern at the decline in numbers of bees, especially honey bees. For some time now honey bees have been disappearing from their hives without a trace, completely baffling scientists. Find out more on the Scottish Natural Heritage website.
To see the full list of animals on the Species Action List, visit the Scottish Natural Heritage website.
Reintroducing Native Species
Sometimes a species can be lost from our countryside. If Scottish Natural Heritage thinks that there is a good chance a species can be successfully reintroduced, they will try to do this. This helps protect Scotland’s biodiversity.
- The Scottish Beaver Trial is a new project looking at how beavers can be reintroduced back into the Scottish countryside.
- The White-tailed eagle is successfully being reintroduced back to the east of Scotland.
- Work is underway to return 'Ratty', the European Water vole back into the Trossachs.