Sunny

Sunny

max temp: 10°C

min temp: 5°C

Search

Suffolk Mammal Conference brings top naturalists together

PUBLISHED: 14:42 06 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:42 06 March 2018

Key speakers at the Suffolk Mammal Conference, standing, from left, Paul Cantwell, Dr Tom August, Pc Lee Andrews-Pearce, Dr Matt Heydon, Dr Simone Bullion, Martin Hancock, Nicky Rowbottom, Alan Miller, David Hooton and Darren Tansley, front, from left, Ali North, Lizzie Croose and Dr Rowena Langston. Picture: JOHN GRANT

Key speakers at the Suffolk Mammal Conference, standing, from left, Paul Cantwell, Dr Tom August, Pc Lee Andrews-Pearce, Dr Matt Heydon, Dr Simone Bullion, Martin Hancock, Nicky Rowbottom, Alan Miller, David Hooton and Darren Tansley, front, from left, Ali North, Lizzie Croose and Dr Rowena Langston. Picture: JOHN GRANT

Archant

Ipswich event explores challenges faced by wildlife

Some of the naturalists who attended the Suffolk Mammal Conference listen to one of the speakers. Picture: JOHN GRANTSome of the naturalists who attended the Suffolk Mammal Conference listen to one of the speakers. Picture: JOHN GRANT

From the tiny pygmy shrew that weighs about the same as a 1p coin to the mighty red deer that can approach 200kg, and from pioneering polecat to the occasional wandering whale, Suffolk’s mammals may be diverse in character but they share a common right to be allowed to live their lives alongside their fellow mammalian county resident – us humans.

How they are doing so was explored in a major naturalists’ conference. And prominent county mammal champion Martin Hancock, who chaired part of the event, struck a chord with the delegates gathered at Wherstead Park, near Ipswich, with a passionate and eloquent address in which a key word was “harmony”.

The Suffolk Naturalists’ Society and the Suffolk Mammal Group’s joint event, sponsored by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, had been given the title “Of Mammals and Men – Challenges facing mammals today”. Some of Britain’s leading authorities on species and issues ranging from water voles to Brexit and deer to dormice – and even drones – gave presentations on the theme, with Mr Hancock providing a thought-provoking overview.

He cited situations where harmony existed between Man and our wild mammalian cousins – and situations where it patently does not.

A badger - the species was featured by Martin Hancock at the conference. Picture: ALAN BALDRYA badger - the species was featured by Martin Hancock at the conference. Picture: ALAN BALDRY

As competition for space and food increased, conflict between Man and mammals had the potential to increase, he said, and yet some solutions were easy.

As an example, the simple act of providing suitable holes in fences would allow urban hedgehogs their much-needed rights to roam, he said.

He also had personal experience of a simple solution to the potential problem of maize crop depletion by badgers. Any such conflict was resolved by the provision of electric netting around the maize field – “with a little maize left out for the badgers, because they love it,” said Mr Hancock.

Mammalian predators played a “key role in regulating ecosystems” and yet sometimes suffered from persecution. He had recently learned that some anglers were demanding action against otters – predators they saw as the “aquatic equivalent of the urban fox” - and he asked if the polecat, now re-colonising Suffolk after local extermination through persecution, would soon be looked upon in the same way.

Mr Hancock was especially impassioned when he referred to badgers and the “emotive and politicised issue” of the highly contentious badger cull that is said by some to be necessary to stop the spread of bovine TB.

He acknowledged that TB was a “real problem” in some dairy cattle herds and some farmers had to quit dairy production as a result of it. But, he asked: “Is culling the appropriate action? Are we leading to the annihilation of the badger, which is our largest remaining carnivore in the UK and which was here long before humans?”

Last autumn, he said, 20,000 badgers had been culled, nearly half of which were “free-shot” despite the British Veterinary Association branding such a method of killing as “inhumane”. Culling inevitably led to the dispersal of badgers – moving away from a cull area was a natural response and “if a badger did have TB when it disappeared from an area then it takes it with it.”

None of the 20,000 culled badgers were tested for bovine TB. “I cannot see the sense in that,” said Mr Hancock. In 2016, 29,000 cattle were prematurely slaughtered after being tested for TB – “that is going to have an effect on the measurement of TB but that is never mentioned,” he added.

He found Defra’s bovine TB strategy “totally confusing” and said it currently appeared “ill-conceived and ineffective.”

Later in the conference, Mr Hancock made a forceful case for the importance of sound, evidence-based research and the value of meticulous recording of mammals, which could well have also applied to his views on badger culling.

“We need to understand mammal ecology. Data leads to information, information leads to knowledge and knowledge leads to wisdom – and that is something we all need to have in our hearts,” he said.

A driver has been taken to hospital with ‘potentially life changing injuries’ after their 4x4 crashed into a stationary vehicle, reported to have been a digger.

Bailey hasn’t had the best start to life and hopes someone can give him the loving home he deserves. Watch our video of him playing with his favourite toy.

A woman is reported to have been raped in a north Essex field.

A young woman is receiving specialist support after alleging she was sexually assaulted in an Essex alleyway in the early hours of this morning.

Police have discovered the body of a missing teenager in Lakenheath.

Crowds watched in awe as a 50ft Christmas tree was lifted into place on the newly renovated Ipswich Cornhill, just in time for the festival period.

Walkers crisps, frozen mash, children’s shoes, and wine from John Lewis are a few of the many items which are being recalled. Check the list and make sure you don’t have these products in your home.

Most read

Show Job Lists

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

MyDate24 MyPhotos24