19 August 2011

Protecting Our Wildlife: Have your Say!

Froglife is urging interested supporters to have their say in an eight-week public consultation on wildlife protection by Natural England. The aim is to rectify many of the problems that have led to poor enforcement of laws protecting wildlife and the natural environment in the past – a great opportunity to have your say, as Froglife’s Liam Atherton explains.

In 2010, radical reforms extended new powers to Natural England, The Countryside Council for Wales, and the Environment Agency to impose civil sanctions on those in breach of environmental and wildlife focussed regulations.

Prior to this, the only options available were to either issue warning letters, or to pursue a full criminal prosecution. This meant if someone acted without a specific animal license, killed wild animals, destroyed protected woodland or damaged a protected natural site many moderate offenders would go unpunished, and full criminal sanctions were reserved for only the worst offenders.

Following this public consultation, Natural England’s current enforcement responsibility for a number of policy areas including Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), heather and grass burning, and breaches of certain wildlife licences could be increased. Natural England could then be able to order the restoration of environmental damage, stop illegal activities, issue fines, and accept voluntary enforcement undertakings if policy has been breached.
Legislation protecting Great crested newts could become more meaningful
It is hoped that with the new range of options available, wildlife and natural environment regulations will be enforced more effectively, and that compliance will be made much easier for everyone. However, as the specifics of these enforcement options are still to be decided this is your chance to help shape the future of environmental protection in England and Wales.

Whilst it is rumoured Scotland and Northern Ireland plan the introduction of civil sanctions for environmental policy, for now regulatory bodies such as Scottish Natural Heritage, The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency will have to be content with lesser powers currently at their disposal.
You can support our work conserving reptiles and amphibians and reptiles for as little as £1.50 a month. Sign up as a Froglife Friend and help save species and habitats here.

17 August 2011

Turtle Watch: Lookout for the Leatherback!

Froglife is supporting appeals by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) for the public to report sightings of one of our most iconic and critically endangered reptiles, the leatherback turtle. August is the peak time to spot them in UK waters, and with fewer than 20 reports annually since 2007 (reports were typically in the 70s prior to this), the MCS wants to hear about every sighting, in order to identify hotspots and implement targeted conservation measures.
Froglife Friend Francesca Barker with a Leatherback turtle in Guatalmala
Weighing up to a tonne, the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the largest of all living sea turtles, and the fourth largest reptile in the world behind three crocodilian species. They are also unique amongst reptiles in their ability to maintain body temperature through metabolically generated heat (endothermy). Other reptiles rely on external means of heat production (ectothermy), which is why our other native reptiles are often found basking in the sun. After the nesting season (March-July), leatherbacks leave their Caribbean breeding areas and many begin the 6000km migration to UK foraging waters, arriving through August and September.

“It seems to be a good summer to spot leatherback turtles in UK waters as we have had six reports of turtles in as many days making up about 20 records since June.” Explains Dr Peter Richardson, Biodiversity Programme Officer at MCS. “They are not easy to spot, but in the last few days we have had confirmed sightings from Selsey Bill in Sussex, Laugharne Sands near Swansea, Newport in North Pembrokeshire, two off Anglesey and one spotted at Gairloch in the West Highlands,” adds Peter. “The more reports of sightings we receive, the more we begin to understand about these critically endangered reptiles when they visit our seas.”

Where leatherback turtles face extinction in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Atlantic populations seem to be increasing, according to the MCS, possibly as a result of the increased conservation efforts on turtle nesting beaches.

Of the seven species of marine turtle swimming the world’s oceans, five species have been recorded in UK and Irish waters including the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). Unlike our native leatherback however, these turtles prefer warmer climates and only occur here as weather blown strays.

 You can support our work conserving reptiles and amphibians and reptiles for as little as £1.50 a month. Sign up as a Froglife Friend and help save species and habitats here.

15 August 2011

Join Mike Dilger to Talk Toads in London!

Froglife is thrilled to invite you to our upcoming event with the Zoological Society of London. Tuppence a Toad: Tales from UK Toad Conservation and Beyond will include informative talks about amphibian conservation by Froglife and ZSL. To give the night an extra boost, we will be welcoming Mike Dilger, the bubbly and enthusiastic nature presenter from the BBC’s One Show, to chair the event.

There will be news from the frontlines of amphibian conservation, time to buy drinks and mingle, as well as an exhibition of toad illustrations and photos. It promises to be an informative and fun evening and we hope you can join us.

The event will be held at ZSL’s headquarters in London Zoo on Friday 30th September 2011. Tickets are £5 for Froglife Friends, £8.50 for other toad lovers. There will also be a raffle and a chance to donate on the night, with funds raised shared by Froglife and ZSL to contribute to amphibian conservation projects. This will be the grand finale to our year long ‘Tuppence a Toad’ campaign.

The important details:

Tuppence a Toad: Tales from UK Toad Conservation and Beyond
Friday September 30th
The Huxley Theatre, London Zoo, Regents Park, London, NW14RY
Doors open at 6pm with time to buy drinks and mingle
Talks starting at 7pm
Evening ends at 10pm
Speakers including: Peter Firmin on the inspiration behind the creation of Gabriel, the banjo playing toad from the Bagpuss series; Froglife Trustee Dr Roger Downie and DCEO Sam Taylor covering Toads on Roads and the context of the global amphibian extinction crisis and Helen Meredith, PhD student involved in the EDGE project at ZSL.
Tickets: £8.50 or £5 for Froglife Friends