BBC Wild Isles: Conservationists share their favorite British animal
Wild Isles, the latest BBC series from well-loved Sir David Attenborough, celebrates the diversity of weird and wonderful wildlife that make Britain such a beautiful and rich place to live.
Sir David travels the country bringing a variety of wildlife to our screens, from puffins to orca whales, eagles to the great blue butterfly that was once extinct on our shores.
Craig Bennett, Managing Director of The Wildlife Trusts – who oversee many of the featured locations – says: “The British Isles are very precious and inhabited by amazing wildlife and magical landscapes that capture the imagination. From puffins that make their home on Skomer to fragments of ancient rainforest on Dartmoor, we are very fortunate to have such a selection of incredible natural wonders on our doorstep.
“It is wonderful that Sir David is taking these treasures out into the world.”
However, Bennett notes that for all the beauty on display, there is a more serious message behind the stunning scenes.
“The series also comes at a time when nature is under immense pressure,” he says. “Wildlife has suffered catastrophic declines in recent decades, and without monumental efforts to create a wilder future, some of our most valued species will become extinct. We hope this series will inspire people to take a stand for our wildlife and help nature recover.
“Our future depends on it.”
To celebrate Britain’s wildlife and raise awareness of the dangers, Metro asked conservationists to share their favorite animals – starting with Wild Isles cameraman and Strictly winner Hamza Yassin. Don’t forget to share yours in the comments below.
white-tailed eagle and golden eagle
It would have to be one of the two eagles – the Whitetails or the Goldies. I wasn’t lucky enough to see them hunting while sitting in my garden drinking tea, so being able to film the white-tailed eagles hunting geese for Wild Isles was a dream come true.
I wake up and go to bed thinking about the eagles, the whitetails, the goldies, the feeding station, the nest. I was very close to them, sometimes up to thirty feet away. They are the best things that travel this space of ours. I love her.
Hamza Yassin, Wild Isles cameraman and strict winner
I like gannets because they are amazingly built for exactly what they do. I love their nonchalant nesting tactics on vertical cliffs. I love their beak-flapping courtship rituals. I love being on a boat and watching them over a shoal in a feeding frenzy – and often you can see porpoises or dolphins in their wake. I love her other worldly blue look. I have a picture of one of Bempton Cliffs hanging over a mirror at home. It’s staring right at me through the lens and seems to be saying, “I’m a really wild creature. You will never know me.’
Beccy Speight, CEO of co-producer RSPB
great spotted woodpecker
The great spotted woodpecker is one of my favorite British birds. I think it’s their striking looks and vibrant personalities that intrigue me. They are regular visitors to our garden bird feeder. Their vibrant black and white plumage (with flashes of red) really catches the eye. Her distinctive drum sound echoing through the forest is soothing to me. I think the Great Spotted Woodpecker’s beauty and distinctive demeanor make it a delightful addition to any birder’s list.
Natalie White, co-founder of the Birda app
The lynx is my favorite British animal. It is temporarily absent from our forests and we must all support calls to make its return a reality. The lynx is a beautiful, elusive keystone species and our ecosystems have been diminished since they went extinct in the UK. It should have been one of the stars of Wild Isles – and it’s about time this incredible creature returned!
Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts
My favorite British species is the rock martin. This elusive forest species, which used to be found throughout much of the UK, is now mainly found in the north, particularly the Scottish Highlands. However, it is beginning to recover and expand its range, but that recovery is fragile as the forests that pine martens rely on are threatened – today they cover less of our landscape than those in most other countries in Europe. Britain’s nature is in crisis and we must protect and reconnect the forests we have left behind and expand them for the future – otherwise we risk losing beautiful species essential to Britain’s biodiversity, including the tree swallow.
Paul de Ornellas, Chief Wildlife Advisor at co-producer WWF-UK
My favorite British wildlife is the Red Kite, the first bird I learned to identify, with its distinctive forked tails. I would stop and stare if I saw one fly. They are an incredible success story – they were once extinct in England and Scotland, but thanks to the successful reintroduction program there are now over 5,000 breeding pairs in England alone! I now work on the ZSL Wildlife Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance team, monitoring the Red Kite population to ensure we catch them early if a new threat or disease emerges. I still stop and stare when I see one flying.
dr Elysé Summerfield-Smith, Wildlife Veterinarian and Research Associate at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London
Puffins have to be one of the most iconic British animals to me! They are so small and cheerful with their slightly clownish appearance and sandeels hanging out of their colorful beaks. Unfortunately, puffins are threatened by human activities such as overfishing and pollution. We must protect our seas to help this endangered species. I’ve spent hours watching them on the Isle of May in Scotland and I just love them. They’re like we’ve been gifted a showy, tropical, exotic bird, but in a much more modest, miniature package.
Sandy Luk, CEO of the Marine Conservation Society
While I have many favorites, one that comes to mind this time of year is the common brimstone. Often the first butterfly I see each spring, its cheerful lemon yellow wings are a harbinger of sunnier times. Although it is listed as Least Concern in Europe on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is widespread in England and Wales, its population in the UK is steadily declining. A likely factor is the reduction in the habitat available for the adults to overwinter. One way to help sulfur (and many other species) is to leave wild areas in parks and gardens.
Janet Scott, Program Officer, IUCN Red List
The BBC’s Wild Isles, a co-production of the RSPB, WWF and the Open University, launches today on BBC One and iPlayer
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https://metro.co.uk/2023/03/12/bbc-wild-isles-conservationists-share-their-favourite-british-animal-18404630/ BBC Wild Isles: Conservationists share their favorite British animal