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Northern Ireland public 'most realistic' about the state of nature

Last modified: 07 November 2013

Housing estate near Worcester

Image: Andy Hay

People in Northern Ireland are more aware of the threats facing nature than anywhere else in the UK, according to a recent survey carried out by the RSPB and property website Rightmove.

More than 1,500 people across the UK were asked a series of questions relating to gardens and garden wildlife in a bid to get an insight into people’s knowledge and interest in garden wildlife following the launch of the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign.

When asked how they would rate the state of wildlife in the UK, almost a quarter of people in Northern Ireland rated it a five – meaning they believe it’s ‘barely surviving’.

The same answer was given by just seven per cent of respondents in Scotland and a tiny three per cent of people in Greater London.

Unfortunately, the views of people here are the most realistic. Earlier this year the RSPB joined forces with 24 other wildlife organisations to undertake a health check of nature in the UK and the results were extremely worrying.

The State of Nature report revealed that 60 per cent of the species studied have declined over recent decades and more than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

It’s really important that the public are aware of the very real threats which nature is facing. However, the good news is that we can all play our part to reverse this trend by giving birds and wildlife homes in our gardens, on nature reserves and in the wider countryside.

The RSPB and Rightmove survey reveals lots of people in Northern Ireland are already embracing the concept the giving nature a home where they live – with almost half of those surveyed saying they would ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ pay more to purchase  a wildlife-friendly property. This compares to just 22 per cent of people in the south west of England.

When asked if they felt they had a duty to protect wildlife in their own garden, the response from those surveyed in Northern Ireland was also overwhelming – 92 per cent said they feel ‘everyone should do their bit’. RSPB NI Conservation Manager, Anne-Marie McDevitt, commented: “The results of this survey are really encouraging. To find out that the majority of people in Northern Ireland think having a wildlife-friendly garden is so important they’d consider paying more for one is great news.

“Nature is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. Gardens provide a valuable lifeline for wildlife like starlings, frogs, hedgehogs and butterflies, so we want to help people to give nature a home where they live – it can really make a difference.”

Matthew James, Head of Communications at Rightmove, added: “The garden has always been one of the key aspects many buyers consider when looking for their dream home, and for some it can even end up being the deciding factor.  For so many homebuyers to say they would consider paying more for one is a very promising sign for the Give Nature a Home campaign. Wildlife-friendly gardens, as well as helping to prevent a further decline in some species, can be a great way for families to enjoy the outdoors and learn more about the creatures that live, quite literally, on their doorstep.”

TV homes expert, Linda Barker, is also supporting the campaign. She said: “To me, having wildlife in your garden is the perfect finishing touch to any home. Planting wild flowers, digging a pond or creating a log pile for bugs is not just a good way of getting creative and making your garden more attractive, but it will also benefit threatened garden wildlife at the same time. “Individual actions will make a difference and start to help tackle the lack of habitats for some of our wild creatures. In my garden I’ve put up a nest box for birds and planted nectar-rich flowers to attract bees. If everyone can do just one thing and gave nature a home in their outside space it would be amazing - together we can make a big difference.” There are lots of top tips on the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home microsite – www.rspb.org.uk/homes - from planting bulbs ready to attract bees and other insects next year; building or buying a hedgehog shelter, digging a pond or putting up nest boxes in time for next spring. By visiting the website people can get their free Giving Nature a Home starter guide, pledge their support by sharing plans, pictures, tips and ideas with others.  The site also gives more information about what the RSPB is doing to give nature a home in the wider countryside.

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