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Don’t forget the silver lining!

4 Sep 2019

Reasons to be optimistic about the future of our wildlife

This week the Conservation Optimism Summit is being held in Oxford. This three day event brings together representatives from conservation organisations, together with those from government, industry, journalism, NGOs, academia, and the creative arts. Those in attendance will discuss ideas and solutions relating to conservation as well as celebrating successful global wildlife projects.

At a time when there is so much negative news about conservation, it is refreshing to see a summit dedicated to the inspiring people and organisations who, through their hard work and perseverance are driving positive changes to regenerate and protect our wildlife.

Here at Pensthorpe Natural Park we are exposed to reasons to be optimistic about peoples’ positive attitudes towards wildlife and conservation on a daily basis. We welcome hundreds of visitors to the park every day, either from groups such as schools and clubs or families on a day out.

Hearing their feedback about the park, the wildlife it attracts and how they have interacted with it is always inspiring to those of us who work here. There are many examples of this feedback, but a few of my favourites are:

  • A seven-year-old girl getting very excited about a Knopper Gall;
  • A birdwatcher delighted to see her first Great White Egret;
  • A young mother overcoming her phobia of moths by holding an Elephant Hawkmoth;
  • An overjoyed family returning to the Wildlife Education Centre having seen and photographed a Slow Worm under one of our habitat (bug hunt) sheets; and
  • An animated pre-school group as they discover leeches, dragonfly larvae and water boatmen during a pond dipping session. 

In addition, there is always a huge amount of interest and support for our Red Squirrel and Corncrake breed and release projects. Whilst it is a little early to be gauging the success of the Corncrake project, the Red Squirrel is definitely a cause for optimism. Working as part of the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and fellow group members have helped in securing populations of the species on Anglesey and in Ogwen Valley in North Wales.

One couple, having seen the excellent coverage on BBC’s Countryfile of our Corncrake and Red Squirrel projects, visited the park specifically to see a Corncrake. Not the easiest species to see, even in captivity, so it made the couples’ day when a male decided to wander around, right in front of them, in our Wader Aviary.

Our experience is, therefore, that people care about wildlife and that advising them about conservation successes will demonstrate to them that by supporting projects, they can make a difference. So whilst we clearly need to maintain a sense of urgency to address the issues facing wildlife, we need to make sure we don’t lose track of the positive work already being done. Remember, every cloud has one!


Allan Archer, Wildlife Education Officer