Nurture the nature in your garden. Call for garden-owners to help save Britain's wildlife

No.:  2014-03
January 2014

BRITAIN’S biggest public-led investigation into the health of native wildlife has begun today (16 January), with the launch of the national Garden Wildlife Health project.

Greenfinch by John Harding/BTO

A partnership between the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Froglife and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Garden Wildlife Health is the first collaborative citizen science project of its kind, relying on data provided from garden-owners across the nation.

Monitoring the well-being of species commonly found in Britain, including amphibians, reptiles, garden birds and hedgehogs, members of the public are being asked to report signs of disease online at gardenwildlifehealth.org.

All of the information collected will be used by the Garden Wildlife Health team to assess where and when wildlife diseases are occurring and the impact they have on animal populations to help safeguard against future declines.

Garden Wildlife Health project co-ordinator at ZSL says: “We all share our gardens with wildlife but often fail to notice how these animals are faring. We’re already seeing a steep decline in a number of iconic British animals, including the hedgehog, and we need to know whether disease is playing a role."

We know that Common Frog and Greenfinch populations have declined as a result of disease and keeping an eye on our British garden species is crucial if we are to understand the threats to their health, which not only affect individual animals, but can impact entire populations."

“This new national project relies on the help and support from the British public, and we urge people to get in contact with us at gardenwildlifehealth.org to tell us what they’re seeing in their garden; it really will make a difference.”

Kathy Wormald of Froglife added: “We are already aware that many British wild animal populations have declined due to habitat loss. More recently it has become apparent that infectious disease in amphibians has caused significant population declines. This new project will provide us with invaluable information to help these species.”

Clare Simm, from BTO says: “It is great to have our network of BTO Garden BirdWatchers at the core of this new project. Their weekly records of garden wildlife provide systematic information on wildlife populations and disease, supporting the reports coming in from other sources.”

Collating reports from the British public, the Garden Wildlife Health team will be able to assess for the first time valuable information on the well-being of native species and explore if disease is contributing to population declines. To learn more about the project, the diseases affecting British garden wildlife and how you can get involved please go to: www.gardenwildlifehealth.org

Note for Editors

1. Garden Wildlife Health Project:

This surveillance system currently focuses on garden birds, amphibians, reptiles and hedgehogs. By obtaining information about the diseases affecting these garden wildlife species with the assistance of the general public, including volunteers who systematically make observations on a weekly basis, and through the post mortem examination of affected animals, we aim to learn more about the conditions that affect our wildlife and any associated risk factors. The results will inform conservation actions and garden wildlife management advice.

The Garden Wildlife Health project aims to:  Monitor disease trends in wildlife populations and investigate emerging threats to garden wildlife health. In order to improve our knowledge in this field, we need an integrated nationwide approach to wildlife disease surveillance. Raise public awareness of disease threats to garden wildlife. Information provided by members of the public will allow us to understand the distribution and impact of these wildlife diseases across the country and provide evidence-based information to assist with wildlife conservation. Promote and inform “best practice” for activities that involve garden wildlife to help safeguard their health. Communicate outcomes to the public, scientific communities and government agencies to inform actions to enhance the environment and biodiversity, public and domestic animal health. Provide a database and wildlife tissue archive for collaborative research.

2.  Partners

ZSL - Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. Our mission is realised through our ground-breaking science, our active conservation projects in more than 50 countries and our two Zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. For more information visit www.zsl.org .

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) undertakes the BTO Garden BirdWatch. For further information, please contact: Paul Stancliffe (Press Officer), 01842 750 050, paul.stancliffe [at] bto.org or visit http://www.bto.org/

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) - The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations. For more information, please contact Gemma Butlin, 01767 693 489, gemma.butlin [at] rspb.org.uk or visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/ .

Froglife - Froglife is a national wildlife conservation charity concerned with the conservation of the UK’s amphibian and reptile species and their associated habitats. Our holistic approach to nature conservation enables us to take individuals on a wildlife journey, whilst also delivering amazing results for our amphibian and reptile species. For further information, please contact: Sivi Sivanesan, 07530 103 238, sivi.sivanesan [at] froglife.org or visit http://www.froglife.org.

3.  Funders

Defra and the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA)

GWH is supported in part by the AHVLA's Diseases of Wildlife Scheme which receives funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) through the Scanning Surveillance Programme. GWH also receives funding from Defra’s Strategic Evidence Partnership Fund.

For more information please contact Mark Powell, 07818 011 910, mark.powell [at] ahvla.gsi.gov.uk

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation partly funds GWH. Esmée Fairbairn aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. We do this by funding the charitable work of organisations with the ideas and ability to achieve positive change.

The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK. We make grants of £30 - £35 million annually towards a wide range of work within the arts, education and learning, the environment and social change. We also operate a £26 million Finance Fund which invests in organisations that aim to deliver both a financial return and a social benefit. For more information visit http://esmeefairbairn.org.uk/ .

Contact Details

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at] bto.org

Rebecca Blanchard
(Institute of Zoology)

Office: 0207-4496236
Email: rebecca@blanchard [at] zsl.org

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference 2014-03

High resolution images available here: https://zslondon.sharefile.com/d/s87f296646c34a6c8

HD B-roll available here: https://zslondon.sharefile.com/d/se9113a836f74b5c8

Interviews

Interviews are available with the following project staff :

Professor Andrew Cunningham - Zoological Society of London
Tim Hopkins – Garden Wildlife Health project co-ordinator at Zoological Society of London
Clare Simm – British Trust for Ornithology

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews.
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050