31st March 2017

National Lottery backs ambitious plan to save twenty species threatened with extinction. A further 200 species, including pine marten, willow tit and lesser butterfly orchid will be brought Back from the Brink.

Back from the Brink is the first nationwide coordinated effort to bring a wide range of leading charities and conservation bodies together to save threatened species. Natural England, Englands wildlife advisory body, will work in partnership with Amphibian and Reptile Trust, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and RSPB to pool expertise, develop new ways of working and inspire people across the England to discover, value and act for threatened animals, plants and fungi.

In one of the most ambitious conservation projects of its kind, 20 UK species facing extinction will be brought Back from the Brink thanks to £4.6 million from the National Lottery. Back from the Brink will also address the needs of threatened species in 150 key habitats and landscapes across England from the Yorkshire Dales to Cornwall. It will focus on saving some very rare and elusive species from extinction, including the shrill carder bee, chequered skipper butterfly, ladybird spider and Northern dune tiger beetle.

The funding will help a further 200 species that while not facing extinction are under threat. These include a number of bat species including the Bechstein's bat, noctule, brown long-eared bat, greater horseshoe bat and soprano pipistrelle.

In addition, the programme will inspire a nation to discover, value and act for threatened species by encouraging them to love and value species on their doorstep and take steps to help them.

So in summary this ground-breaking programme will:

  • Safeguard 20 species from extinction
  • Directly improve the conservation prospects of a further 200
  • Recruit and teach more than 5,500 volunteers new skills to study, identify and care for threatened species.
  • Engage with landowner and communities to deliver conservation at 150 different locations across England

Grey long-eared bat (Hugh Clark/www.bats.org.uk)

As part of the Back from the Brink programme, the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) has developed a single species project that aims to reverse the decline of the grey long-eared bat. This rare species has a population of only 1,000 individuals and a distribution restricted to the southern coast of England (Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Sussex) making it one of the UKs rarest mammals. Genetic evidence suggests that the species is still declining. The English population is divided into two subpopulations, separating the most westerly Devon colony from the rest of the English colonies. Dr Orly Razgour's research suggests that in the UK all colonies, with the exception of Dorset, may not be able to avoid inbreeding depression unless sufficient levels of gene flow are maintained between colonies. This highlights the importance of not only improving the quality of foraging around roosts but also maintaining or establishing connectivity between colonies within the UK. The areas around and between roosts in Devon will be a priority focus of this project.

Julia Hanmer, Joint CEO of Bat Conservation Trust said, "The scale of delivery and the degree of collaboration makes Back from the Brink an exciting project which offers real hope of creating a world where wildlife and people thrive together. Thank you to National Lottery for sharing our vision."

Natural England's Chairman, Andrew Sells said:

"Back from the Brink represents a groundbreaking approach to nature conservation and we are extremely grateful to HLF for having the vision and generosity to support it.

"This is a dynamic partnership which draws on people-power to help save some of our most important species. Natural England strongly supports this approach and is delighted to be part of it.

"Bringing these species back from the brink cannot be achieved by one group alone. But by pooling resources and developing new ideas, this project will add vital momentum to all our efforts."

Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund Ros Kerslake said:

"I am delighted we are able to fund this important and groundbreaking project. We're all ultimately dependent on our ecosystem and these creatures are like canaries in the mine. Thanks to a combination of National Lottery funding and expertise from across multiple agencies and conservation charities, we can make a positive and lasting change before it is too late."

Mike Clarke the RSPB's chief executive said: "Our natural world is in trouble, last year's State of Nature report revealed that the population of over half of UK species are in decline, but we believe it is not too late to take action. Today's announcement by the National Lottery will make a big difference to some of our most threatened species that, without action, may soon be lost forever. The Back from the Brink project is bringing together specialists from many of our biggest and most effective conservation organisations to support the governments of the UK in meeting our obligations to the UN and international community to protect our most threatened species from extinction. This funding will be invaluable in our efforts to ensure future generations inherit a thriving and diverse natural environment."

Julie Williams, CEO of Butterfly Conservation said, "We are delighted that National Lottery have recognised and rewarded this multi-organisational partnership to deliver something special for our threatened species. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts and we look forward to working with our partners to demonstrate that and make an even bigger difference."

Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife said, "Bugs, beetles, ants, spiders and other invertebrates make up the majority of species on the brink of extinction. It is fantastic that this pathfinding partnership project will pull back so many species that could otherwise disappear forever. Our natural environment has never been more imperilled, dedicated work to rescue endangered plants and animals is a cornerstone of any sensible broader strategy to restore a thriving country."

David Hodd, Programme Manager for Back from the Brink concluded by saying, "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and is a game changing approach to nature conservation that will have a lasting legacy. It will inspire new working partnerships, and help people to adopt new ways of working. England's species provide us with a rich source of enjoyment inspiration and creativity. Our collective endeavour to bring our threatened species back from the brink will provide many people with just that. We are living in the last chance saloon for many of these species, but each and every one of them plays a crucial role within our fragile eco-system. We are all ultimately dependent on them all - they are like the canaries in the mine and our understanding of them is the result of enormous human endeavour."

Notes to editors:

Bat Conservation Trust www.bats.org.uk : Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) are the leading charity solely devoted to the conservation of bats and the landscapes on which they rely. We work closely with many organisations including over 100 bat groups across the UK. We are working to secure the future of bats in our ever changing world by tackling the threats to bats, from persecution to loss or roosts and changing land use. As the authoritative voice for bat conservation we work locally, nationally, across Europe and internationally. BCT have a vision of a world rich in wildlife where bats and people thrive together. www.bats.org.uk

The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC) is a national wildlife charity committed to the conservation of reptiles and amphibians and the disappearing habitats on which they depend. Our vision sees amphibians and reptiles thriving in their natural habitats, and a society inspired and committed to their conservation. ARC manages a series of nature reserves, runs species recovery programmes, undertakes monitoring and scientific studies, and provides advice to help people conserve reptiles and amphibians. www.arc-trust.org

Buglife Conservation Trust is the only charity in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates, and is actively working to save Britain's rarest bugs, bees, butterflies, ants, worms, beetles and many more fascinating invertebrates. www.buglife.org.uk

Bumblebee Conservation Trust has a vision for a different future in which our communities and countryside are rich in bumblebees and colourful flowers, supporting a diversity of wildlife and habitats for everyone to enjoy. www.bumblebeeconservation.org.

Butterfly Conservation is the UK charity dedicated to saving butterflies, moths and our environment. We provide advice on conserving and restoring habitats. We run programmes for more than 100 threatened species and are involved in conserving thousands of sites and reserves. www.butterfly-conservation.org

Natural England is here to secure a healthy natural environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England's traditional landscapes are safeguarded for future generations. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/natural-england

Plantlife is a British conservation charity working nationally and internationally to save threatened wild flowers, plants and fungi. They are the life support for all our wildlife and their colour and character light up our landscapes. We own nearly 4,500 acres of nature reserve across England, Scotland and Wales and our team of experts work with landowners, businesses, conservation organisations, community groups and governments to help save our rarest flora and ensure familiar flowers and plants continue to thrive. Plantlife was instrumental in the creation of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation that the UK Government is signed up to and we are a member of Planta Europa, a pan-European network of over 60 conservation organisations. Plantlife's Patron is HRH The Prince of Wales. www.plantlife.org.uk

The RSPB is the country's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations. www.rspb.org.uk

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