Top of the agenda for conservation news this week was the plight of the rock hopper penguins of Tristan da Cunha.
Despite its location in a remote part of the South Atlantic, Tristan is in fact part of the UK – it is one of the UK Overseas Territories. Many of these territories are outposts for threatened species but their isolation makes conservation work very difficult.
News broke early in the week that ship had run aground and leaking oil was affecting the internationally important population of rockhopper penguins.
The story was featured at home in the Telegraph, the Mirror, the Sun, Times and Independent and RSPB conservation scientist Richard Cuthbert was interviewed on the Today programme about the situation. The story was then picked up across the world featuring in the New York Times and the Washington Post amongst others.
Another international environment story with a UK link this week was the news that a report commissioned by RSPB and ActionAid has found that African biofuels could produce six times as much carbon emissions as fossil fuels.
“We are not going to let this land go even if it means shedding blood," said a local resident of the Dakatcha Woodlands in Kenya on the BBC World Service. The area is threatened with destruction to make way for a massive jatropha plantation. Jatropha is used to make biofuels which are being championed by the UK and other European governments as an alternative renewable fuel.
"The proposed biofuel plantation will devastate the woodlands, driving the globally threatened Clarke's weaver bird to extinction and depriving thousands of local people of their livelihoods," the RSPB’s Helen Byron told BBC Online.
The story was also featured in the Telegraph.
Spring has very definitely sprung in our countryside and RSPB conservation director Mark Avery joined Radio 2’s Simon Mayo on Wednesday to talk about seasonal birdsong to listen out for.
And one youngster who has a special affinity with birds is ten year-old Emmanuel Adam. The RSPB’s Val Osborne spoke to the Mirror this week about why a jackdaw has taken a particular liking to him and perches happily on his shoulder.
“Jackdaws are incredibly clever and do become humanised very quickly,” she explained.
The issue of farming and the decline of farmland birds has always been a heated one, so it was no surprise that the topic caused heated debate between the RSPB’s Mark Avery and NFU president Peter Kendall this week. The two took park in an online debate for the Farmers Guardian on Monday in which Mark declared, “The RSPB loves farmers to bits!” and hailed farmland conservation success stories including cirl buntings, stone curlews and corncrakes.
The big news from the RSPB this week was the launch of our Stepping UP for Nature campaign – the most ambitious campaign the charity has launched in its 122 year history.
The Today programme on Wednesday headed out into the Fens to investigate the way our natural environment has changed over the years, visiting the famous Holme Fen Post and the RSPB’s Lakenheath nature reserve. They also interviewed the RSPB’s director of conservation Mark Avery and the environment secretary Caroline Spelman. It’s well worth a listen and you can catch it here.
Mark also appeared on BBC Breakfast television to talk about the campaign and the launch was also covered on Farming Today as well as in the Mirror, the Daily Telegraph, Farmers Guardian and elsewhere.
The state of Europe's seas received significant welcome attention this week with many journalists – including those of the Independent, Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC News Online - following EU Commissioner Maria Daminaki's comments on the wasteful practice of Europe's fishing fleet discarding a million fish every year. At last there is recognition that the discarding fish is no longer ethically justifiable and must be banned before the balance of life in the seas is destroyed. Maria Damanaki told fisheries ministers that throwing away fish was wasteful, unethical, damaging and must end.
Her call – welcomed by the RSPB - for a Europe-wide ban on discards came as Britain, Denmark, France and Germany signed an accord in which they called for the wholesale reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The concern over discards has followed the hugely successful ‘fish-fight’, led by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. The initiative, which was promoted by Channel 4, saw over 650,000 people sign a petition calling for the practice The item was covered by the Daily Telegraph and Daily Express
A protective shell may have shielded turtles and tortoises but the Independent reports these are now the most endangered group of higher animals, with more than half of their 328 species threatened with extinction because of unsustainable hunting; large scale collection for the pet trade and widespread pollution and habitat destruction. Among birds one in eight of the world’s species are facing extinction.
The numbers of hen harriers have declined by a fifth according to new research. The RSPB blames the decline of hen harriers on illegal persecution on managed grouse moors. Reacting angrily, grouse moor estate managers have said they were being unfairly blamed for the killing of birds of prey. Members of the Scottish Parliament will soon vote on the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill, which BBC News Online reports would allow those killing birds of prey to be convicted more easily.
Is your garden harbouring an alien? That’s the question being asked this week, as a host of popular plants are threatening to take over the countryside, according to Plantlife. A report – covered in the Daily Mail - names 92 non-native plants sold by garden centres and pond specialists that are in danger of spreading into the wild. Plantlife says many of the species could become the next Japanese knotweeds – alien plants choking the countryside after being set loose by careless gardeners. Plantlife is calling for urgent action to curb the spread of the invaders – and for two plants to be banned from sale.
A cuckoo has reportedly arrived in the UK two months early, according to the Daily Telegraph. The RSPB has said that cuckoos have been recorded in Britain as early as January, but such early sightings was unusual, occurring only every 25 years. “It’s not a sign of climate change or weather cycles changing’” said an RSPB spokesman: “It is more likely an individual in the population has got horrendously lost and out of sync.”