New research points to a growing disconnect between people and wildlife, despite many in the UK claiming they feel closer to nature following a year of lockdown.
A survey commissioned by Jordans Cereals has found that almost half (44 per cent) of the UK public have never seen a hedgehog in the wild, a figure that increases to 57 per cent for those aged 18-34.
The hedgehog has long been emblematic of British wildlife, but the new statistics appear to reflect the dramatic decline of the species in the UK, from a population of around 30 million in the 1950s to under 1.5 million now.
And it’s not only our beloved hedgehogs that are vanishing. The survey also found that well over half of us have never seen an owl in the wild (59 per cent), hare (70 per cent), or badger (73 per cent).
This new research comes against the backdrop of an ecological emergency, with 41 per cent of British wildlife now in decline, and one in four native mammals at imminent risk of extinction, according to the latest State of Nature report.
Despite this, the majority (69 per cent) of people in the UK say that observing nature in their own outdoor space has provided comfort to them during lockdown, with the same figure claiming that being able to spend time in their garden has helped them get through lockdown.
In response to the UK’s nature crisis – and aiming to harness the public’s renewed connection to their outdoor space – Jordans is launching Grow Wild with the support of charity partner The Wildlife Trusts in order to encourage people to nurture wildlife on their doorstep.
The campaign, which launched on the eve of the UN’s International Day for Biological Diversity, calls on the nation to follow the lead of Jordans farmers and dedicate a patch of their outdoor space to nature – whether that be a flowerbed, a wall, or even a window ledge.
With an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK covering some 10 million acres – and plenty more balconies, walls and window ledges besides – Jordans and The Wildlife Trusts want to highlight the importance of people’s outdoor space to act as important havens for wildlife, including birds, butterflies and bees.
The research suggests that the necessity for outdoor socialising brought about by the pandemic has had a bearing on garden use: almost a fifth (18 per cent) of people have installed outdoor seating in their gardens in the last year, a figure which rises to a quarter (25 per cent) in the 18-25 age group.
In addition, a tenth (nine per cent) of people have installed a patio in their outdoor space in the past 12 months.
Notably, a sixth of respondents (16 per cent) stated that they are considering installing artificial turf, which is detrimental to wildlife.
Through Grow Wild, Jordans aims to demonstrate to the public that by making small changes to the way they cultivate and enjoy their outdoor spaces, they can make a significant difference to nature – just as Jordans farmers make a difference by setting aside at least 10 per cent of their land for wildlife.
By training climbing plants up a bare wall, growing pollinator-friendly flowers and herbs on a balcony or window ledge, or simply saying no to artificial turf, people can have a big impact, even in a small space.
More seasoned gardeners whose beds are already blooming may want to pay attention to the products they’re using in their gardens.
Nearly a third (32 per cent) of survey respondents claimed they were unaware of any environmental impact of using peat in their gardens.
Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, said:
“Hedgehogs, starlings and stag beetles are just some of the amazing wildlife that will reap the benefits of people taking action to turn their patch into a haven for nature.”