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The big news today:

Review of government’s bovine TB strategy published - Defra

review of the government’s 25 Year Bovine TB (bTB) Strategy, led by Sir Charles Godfray, has been published today (Tuesday 13 November).

Image: DefraThe report, which was commissioned by Environment Secretary Michael Gove in February, aims to inform future strategies around the government’s goal of eradicating the disease by 2038.

Image: Defra

The report is now with Ministers who will consider its recommendations before publishing a response, setting out the next steps for the bTB Strategy.

Farming Minister George Eustice said: “We welcome this review of the Government’s 25-year Bovine TB strategy and I extend my thanks to Sir Charles Godfray and his team for their hard work in producing the report. As a Government we are committed to eradicating bTB and have always been clear that there is no single measure for tackling it. That’s why we have pursued a range of interventions, including cattle movement controls, vaccinations and controlled culling in certain areas. Sir Charles’ report is an important contribution that will inform next steps in the strategy to achieve officially TB free status for England by 2038.”

Sir Charles Godfray, population biologist and Fellow of the Royal Society said: “The Review Panel are acutely aware of the burden this disease places on the welfare and well-being of farmers and their families, and the distress many people feel about badger culling. There are no easy answers to reducing disease levels and what is required is new drive and a concerted and concentrated effort by all sectors involved.”

 

Responses:

Huge disappointment at limitations of Bovine TB Strategy Review led by Sir Charles Godfray – The Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts' response to the Bovine TB Strategy Review.

Whilst welcoming the review's recommendations for a changed emphasis in the government’s strategy for eradicating bovine tuberculosis (bTB), The Wildlife Trusts are extremely concerned that it also recommends that badger culling should continue. This flies in the face of robust scientific evidence and we urge the government to halt their flawed policy which leads to tens of thousands of badgers being killed every year. 

Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager of The Wildlife Trusts says: “The Wildlife Trusts believe that cattle and not badgers should be the focus of efforts to eradicate bTB. We support the review’s recommendation that the focus of the strategy should be shifted to addressing the transmission of bTB between cattle. This is the main route of infection. Only 1 in 20 cases of bTB herd infections are transmitted directly from badgers, so culling badgers is not the answer. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that culling increases the prevalence of bTB in the badger population, and results in it spreading to other areas. We believe that more must be done by both the government and farmers to improve farm biosecurity and cattle movement controls. Badger vaccination should be used strategically, with more resources invested to roll out a widespread vaccination programme. Vaccination has the potential to reduce bTB infection prevalence in the badger population, and hence bTB risks to cattle, without the harmful effects associated with culling such as increased prevalence of TB in badgers plus spreading the disease. The review highlights the potential for a large-scale badger vaccination programme as an alternative to culling which The Wildlife Trusts welcomes.  The government should do more to support rolling vaccination out to more areas of the country.”

 

TB strategy review - NFU comment

Commenting on the publication of the report, NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts said: “Bovine TB is a devastating disease. Last year more than 33,000 cattle were slaughtered in England because of it and more than 3,800 farms that had been clear of the disease were affected by it. The NFU wishes to see the eradication of bTB as quickly as possible while retaining a viable cattle industry. To tackle this disease it is crucial that we use every tool available to us, including cattle testing, cattle movement controls, on-farm biosecurity, vaccination and control of the reservoir of disease in wildlife in areas where it is endemic.”

 

In other news:

Wetwipes are flushable? No they're not! – Marine Conservation Society

New research, commissioned by the water industry but carried out independently, puts paid to the notion that wetwipes can be flushed down Image: MCSthe loo. The findings show that, despite many wipes on supermarket shelves being commonly labelled and sold as flushable, their claims of flushability are misleading the public. All wet wipes sold as “flushable” in the UK have so far failed the water industry’s disintegration tests.

Image: MCS

Wipes cause blockages. Surprisingly the so called “fat bergs” that become lodged in UK sewers are only made up of 0.5% fats, but an astonishing 93% wet wipes. £90 million is spent by the water industry each year on clearing blocked drains alone, ultimately adding costs to customers water bills, according to Water UK. Many wet wipes are known to contain plastics such as polyester, and enter the environment.

MCS has campaigned for several years to see action on the labelling of wetwipes, as sewage contamination of waterways and beaches often results from blocked pipes, many of which are caused unnecessarily by items such as wet wipes being flushed. In 2017, MCS collected over 10,000 signatures a petition to the wet wipe industry body EDANA asking them to ensure members removed plastic from their flushable products and that flushable wipes complied with UK Water Industry standards.

 

CalMac encourages new awareness of wildlife - CalMac

Over the summer volunteers on CalMac ferries spotted more than 500 marine mammals across the west coast as part of the company's Marine Awareness Programme.

The Awareness Programme has involved a total of 14 conservation bodies who have partnered with CalMac to gather vital scientific data and Andy on the lookout for wildlife in the Minch (CalMac)to educate passengers more about the environment they are travelling in.

A team of more than 60 wildlife enthusiasts compiled the survey results that tracked different species on different routes as part of the programme. 

Andy on the lookout for wildlife in the Minch (CalMac)

They were supervised by resident ORCA Wildlife Officer Andy Gilbert, who, was taken on this year to increase understanding of the wealth of biodiversity that exists in CalMac's area of operations. 

“Our Marine Awareness Programme focuses on increasing awareness of wildlife in our network by gathering scientific data, facilitating conservation and engaging with the public, Andy has been central to this over the past few months,” said CalMac's Environmental Manager, Klare Chamberlain.

As well as training survey volunteers, during his time with CalMac he has also engaged with more 2200 people on board during 45 trips, explaining about nature on the islands and demonstrating techniques to find wildlife. 

“Wildlife tourism is growing on both a global and local scale and now accounts a significant amount of the total spend across the tourism sector in Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage research suggests that we sail in one of the most attractive eco-tourism destinations in the world” said Klare.  

It is estimated that CalMac's area of operations contains as much as 6500 different species of plants and animals.  

 

Nearly half of Endangered species’ last refuges unprotected – Birdlife International

The Alliance for Zero Extinction has mapped 1,483 highly threatened species that are found only at a single site. But this major new assessment highlights the urgent need for better protection of these irreplaceable places.

The araripe Manakin's final refuge in Brazil is protected by the state © Ciro AlbanoThe araripe Manakin's final refuge in Brazil is protected by the state © Ciro Albano

Sometimes, a species’s population can dwindle so much that it can only be found in one location. Sometimes, a species has only ever lived in one location, but is now facing threats that weren’t around before. No matter the reason, protecting these sites is crucial to prevent species from going extinct.

That’s where the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) comes in – a partnership of 95 organisations from all around the world, working together to bring species back from the brink of extinction. Founding members of the Alliance, BirdLife, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) have spent the past three years pooling their science and expertise to map the last known locations of Endangered and Critically Endangered plants and animals. This year’s major update has increased the number of these ‘AZE trigger species’ to 1,483, confined to 853 ‘AZE sites’ across the world. The map is invaluable in helping the conservation world decide where to focus its efforts, and in informing developers of the places they should avoid.

 

Scientific publications

Lehikoinen, P.,  Santangeli, A., Jaatinen, K., Rajasärkkä , A. & Lehikoinen, A. (2018) Protected areas act as a buffer against detrimental effects of climate change - Evidence from large-scale, long-term abundance data. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14461 Open access

  

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