Managing the environment

Beatrix Potter was not a sentimentalist, but a well-recognised scientist with a great deal of research into fungi. She had a paper read at the Royal Society which she personally could not attend because she was a woman.

With her vast earnings she acquired a number of Lake District farms to prevent the destruction of that environment by builders. Then she left 4,000 acres to the nation.

We are now the largest group of mammals in the world and therefore responsible under God to control that place for all the remaining flora and fauna. We are in many cases the only predator and will at times have to control numbers of certain species to keep a balance.

This has been so well shown first in Africa where there was a reduction in the elephants to stop tree damage and then they found the grasslands were not maintained so the elephants are needed that way.

A number of years ago crocodiles were reduced and then it was found the number of very large predatory fish increased, spoiling the fishing which was the main source of protein for the locals.

In Britain we have no large predators left so we need to take responsibility where too many of one species is affecting the survival of another. While having protection acts for some things for a time, we must then be able to control those numbers if that species becomes over-populous. We have for many years, for instance, protected the raptors, the cormorants and the badger. I approve of this type of action because I don’t want anything to become extinct in my lifetime.

However, the badger has increased in numbers so the food available has become poor and some have starved in a bad winter and their health has gone downhill.

The urban badger-backers only tell one they eat insects and worms, but they eat any of the small mammals and ground-nesting young chicks as well as attacking lambs in lambing time. They are over-populous in most of Britain now. Last week I heard that the hedgehog is endangered as its numbers have declined, I have not seen one for years, yet my terriers used to often find them at night. This decline was said to be because of the over-population of badgers.

Similarly, the sparrow hawks have started nesting in towns due to a return of numbers and our sparrows are disappearing. In some parts of Britain the cormorants are so numerous that they are spoiling fish farming.

If we are going to maintain numbers, the possible kindest way is shooting as long as the guns are truly accurate. Trapping is frightening and painful and poison is a no-no. I have taken most of my life to start to understand the countryside, although as a child growing up in London I was aware that acorns came from oak trees and the deer in Richmond park had to be controlled in numbers. Therefore I realise the great work done by the RSPB andthe various Wildlife Trusts, but they must accept that control has to be recognised or one species could well end up destroying another and we each have our favourites.

Anne Wrangham,

by email