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Environment

A Fifth of UK's Wild Animals at 'Risk of Extinction' Within 10 Years

One in five wild animals in Britain face a grim future, a new report says, and they could be extinct within a decade.

And you’ll never guess who's to blame. No, wait, of course you will — it’s humans. It’s almost always humans.

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Britain is home to 58 species of land-mammal, and almost 20% face a “high risk” of extinction, according to a new report conducted by The Mammal Society and government-led wildlife body Natural England, in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural Resources Wales. 

It might even be an underestimation, according to the Independent, and could be as devastating as 1 in 3.

The comprehensive study examined 1.5 million biological records of British mammals over a period of 20 years by volunteers and scientists.

It created the first-ever “red list” to track which British animals are most in danger. Red squirrel fans, for example, will be dismayed to hear the animals are facing "severe threats to their survival," alongside the beaver and the grey long-eared bat. The highest threat category is "critically endangered," according to the BBC, and includes the Scottish wildcat, the greater mouse-eared bat, and the black rat.

Indeed, right now, there’s just one lonely mouse-eared bat remaining, reportedly hibernating in a railway tunnel in West Sussex, awaiting a mate that may never come.

But that’s not all.

The hedgehog and water vole have seen a 66% decline in their populations, with sightings of nine species in total seeing a drop. The hazel dormouse, black rat, and rabbit were also among those that saw a decline over the 20-year period.

“This is happening on our own doorstep,” said Professor Fiona Mathews, chair of The Mammal Society. “So it falls upon all of us to try and do what we can to ensure that our threatened species do not go the way of the lynx, wolf, and elk and disappear from our shores forever.”

The deer and the otter, meanwhile, are making a comeback — but it's due to the lack of natural predators that allows deer to breed unfettered, and a ban on organophosphate pesticides that protects otters.

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There are a bunch of reasons why there’s been such a steep drop in numbers for Britain’s wildlife — and it all comes down to the most consistent villain of them all. 

Humans just can’t stop building and burning things. Intensive farming and roads break up natural habitats and reduce the necessary space required for local species to flourish. Climate change is also a problem, caused by high emissions from using fossil fuels.

Read More: Humanity Has Killed 83% of All Wild Mammals and Half of All Plants

Invasive species like the grey squirrel and the mink have also played a part in the decline of the red squirrel and water vole. But they didn’t come over of their own accord — humans are responsible for introducing them, too.

“Our lives will be far poorer if our children don’t experience the thrill of seeing iconic species like red squirrels chasing one another or hedgehogs in their gardens,” said Sandra Bell, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Assurances are also needed that there will be no weakening of the laws that protect our most precious nature sites and under-threat species when we leave the EU.”

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Worldwide, humanity has reportedly already destroyed 83% of all wild mammals, with the majority remaining existing as livestock for human consumption.

Although this week’s report focuses on extinction within the British ecosystem, the key provocations remain an issue globally. Agricultural expansion affects 74% of “threatened” bird species, caused by the catastrophic consequences of deforestation, pesticides, and obliterated habitats. Meanwhile, climate change and rising sea levels could destroy half of geographical ranges for tens of thousands of animals by 2100.

Read More: The World Is Becoming Uninhabitable for Animals

It’s not just Britain: Billions of local animal populations are in danger. Unless we act now, it all means one thing: mass extinction.

“It’s fantastic to see a comprehensive assessment of the current vulnerability to extinction of our mammals — the work clearly capitalises on the best available data,” said Nathalie Pettorelli from the Zoological Society of London. “That said, these caveats are more likely to underestimate the number species at risk than overestimate.”

Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals, which call on countries to protect biodiversity. You can take action on this issue here.