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Page last updated at 11:07 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010
Wiltshire's lost and threatened species
Great Bustard
The Great Bustard was until recently extinct, but has been successfully reintroduced onto Salisbury Plain

UK government body, Natural England, has just published a report 'Lost Life' which charts the decline and loss of hundreds of species across England over the last 150 years including many in Wiltshire.

These include well-known species like the Red Squirrel as well as less well known ones like the Tawny Earwig and the Greater Mouse-eared Bat.

2010 has been designated as International Year of Biodiversity.

Biodiversity is about all the rich and varied forms of life that can exist on earth.

The Red Squirrel has disappeared from Wiltshire and other southern counties over the last 50 years - lost to an alien invasion of Grey Squirrels
Natterjack Toad - common in the early 20th century but now gone due to development and agricultural intensification
Black Grouse - hunted to extinction by the 1850's
Lesser known species like Greater Mouse-eared Bat and Tawny Earwig gone forever
The Great Bustard - until recently extinct but successful reintroduction on Salisbury Plain
Redshank - rapidly declining. Special Project set up to help breeding
Woodland Birds - Willow Tit and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in very rapid decline, only a few pockets remain in Wiltshire
The Polecat was driven out by persecution in the 19th Century and is only slowly making its way back
Farmland Birds - fewer sightings of Corn Bunting, Stone Curlew, Snipe and Lapwings
Cuckoos have declined across the South West by 69% since 1994

Life can be found virtually anywhere but survival depends on complex and varied circumstances. If something changes or is lost or damaged then the animal or plant that depends on it is at risk.

Species can adapt but only if given time and space, which is why the world risks losing some of its most iconic species like the tiger.

Lost Life: England's Lost and Threatened Species identifies nearly 500 animals and plants that have become extinct in England - practically all within the last two centuries.

On top of this, nearly 1,000 native species have been given conservation priority status because of the severity of the threats facing them.

Despite these pressures, conservation efforts in Wiltshire have achieved many notable successes in protecting priority species and habitats.

The Great Bustard, a magnificent bird which sits atop the Wiltshire County Coast of Arms, nested in Wiltshire until the early 1800s but was hunted to extinction by the end of the 1830s.

Now the Great Bustard Group is working to reintroduce them in Wiltshire on the margins of their former stronghold of Salisbury Plain.

Numbers of farmland birds are rapidly declining in Wiltshire with fewer and fewer sightings of the once common Lapwing, Snipe and Redshank.

Natural England has recently set up a Special Project funded under an agri-environment scheme to work with farmers on the edge of Salisbury Plain.

By creating wet grassland, an enhanced habitat will encourage breeding of these now rare birds.

A recent recovery programme for the Stone Curlew on the plain has seen encouraging results.

Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England, said: "Coinciding with the International Year of Biodiversity, this report is a powerful reminder that we cannot take our wildlife for granted and that we all lose when biodiversity declines.

"Every species has a role and the overall structure of our environment is weakened each time a single species is lost.

Natterjack Toad
The Natterjack Toad is now extinct due to agricultural intensification

"Biodiversity matters and with more and more of our species and habitats confined to isolated, protected sites we need to think on a much broader geographical scale about how we can reverse the losses of the recent past and secure a more solid future for our wildlife."

To provide long term support for our wildlife, Natural England is working with a range of partners to adopt a "landscape-scale" approach to conservation which goes beyond the conservation of small protected sites and individual species and embraces the management of entire landscape areas and the ecosystems that operate within them.

Wide-scale restoration of habitats and ecosystems and linking of habitat areas is seen as key to taking the pressure off the biodiversity hotspots of individual sites and reserves and giving broader support to wildlife in the wider countryside.

For more information, visit the Natural England website.

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