Jess Murray

Jess is a wildlife conservationist and writer who has spent a lot of time working and studying in South Africa, including training as a nature guide and studying wildlife filmmaking. She is now striving to spread awareness about global conservation issues and the truth behind faux conservation facilities throughout the world, alongside showcasing the beauty of the natural world through her wildlife photography.

How collaboration is saving rhinos

Early last week I attended one of the most inspiring events that I’ve ever been to. It was the launch of Remembering Rhinos, a collaboration in book form of some of the world’s best wildlife photographers with the collective goal of raising much needed funds for rhino conservation. Not only is the book a stunning collection of breath-taking photos highlighting the five species of rhino in Africa and Asia, but it has so far to date raised £115,000 of which 100% is going directly into helping these prehistoric creatures in the areas where protection is needed the most.

The book

The book itself is the second in the series following last year’s Remembering Elephants. This ran on the same principle and has since raised £135,000 which has gone directly into elephant conservation in Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.

After seeing a poached elephant first hand, founder Margot Raggett decided to spring into action and really do something to help; not wanting to be someone who sees the destruction in the world and simply despairs about what to do before going back to her everyday life. After speaking out to photographer friends and getting in touch with some of the current leaders in the industry, she quickly found that everyone was willing to help when it came to an initiative to protect these creatures that are so terribly running out of time. All of the photos in the book were donated by the photographers, and the initial funding of the book printing was raised by a Kickstarter campaign back in February, meaning that 100% of the money spent on purchasing a copy of Remembering Rhinos goes straight into conserving them on the ground.

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Why do we need to protect rhinos?

Rhinos are in dire need of our help. We hear about their declining numbers but do we really know the full extent of the problem? There are currently five species of rhino left in the world, two in Africa and three in Asia, of which one of the species, the Javan rhino, have less than 60 individuals remaining.

The preposterous reason behind the slaughter of so many of these huge mammals is for their characteristic horn. Rhino horn is made out of keratin, which is the same substance that makes up our own human hair and nails. Yet there is a huge market for it in Asia, both for medicinal use, of which it has none, and for use as a status symbol.

There have been countless claims from these markets where there is demand that rhino horn can be used as a cure for everything from a hangover to cancer. Together with this, the rhino horn market has recently had a huge shift with the demand being more for use as a status symbol. Yes, people would gain a product that a precious animal has lost its life for to be used to brag to friends, in the form of carved bracelets and jewellery pieces, as well as ground down as an alternative to cocaine.

Poaching

Poaching has now got so bad that for one species, the northern white rhino, there are only three individuals left in the entire world, two females and a male, all of which are incapable of reproducing. Anti-poaching patrols work tirelessly to protect these animals, but it is simply not enough. There is not enough funding to sustain it, and purchase the technology needed to aid these heroes in protecting these wonderful animals. But that is where Remembering Rhinos is doing a terrific job.

Rhino horn trade

During the event, I was honoured to be in the presence of great conservationists who risk their lives to protect these precious creatures. But unfortunately, that also means learning about the horrendous rhino horn trade. I was absolutely astonished to learn about the prices that people in Asia would pay for something that is exactly the same as the nails on their own hands; $80,000/kg for a rhino horn bracelet, $50,000/kg for a slice of rhino horn, and $120,000/kg for a rhino horn wedding ring, to name just a few of the many preposterous items.

To legalise or not

There is currently debate occurring about whether to legalise the sale of rhino horn or not. The thinking behind this is that rhino horn, unlike ivory from elephant tusks, grows back. Rhino horn is not connected to a rhino’s skull, and if done properly, it does not cause much harm to the rhino to “trim” the horn just as we would do our nails and hair. So why not just legalise the sale of rhino horn to eliminate the illegal market and stop the killing of rhinos?

This is the argument of some people, but unfortunately it is highly flawed. In a perfect, imaginary world perhaps harvesting rhino horn would work, but sadly, not in our world. If rhino horn was sold legally for, $50,000/kg, poachers would sell it for $40,000. If rhino horn decreased to $40,000, the poachers would sell it for $25,000. At those prices, there is still an enormous profit to be made. We must also remember that the poachers on the ground are not the problem, and would do a lot of things to earn some money to feed their families; it is the heads of the poaching syndicates that are the cause of this market and the killing of the rhinos.

Together with this, well calculated figures have shown that “rhino farmers” who harvest rhino horn do not have nearly enough to sustain the market, meaning that poaching would still continue to fill the current demand. Added to this the fact that the same idea was thought about legalising the ivory market a while back, thinking that this will eliminate the killing of elephants as demand for ivory was met with stockpiles. They were incredibly wrong which had a disastrous effect on elephant populations.

I’ll never forget the time that I was working in South Africa with an anti-poaching unit and they told me that even if a rhino has had its horn safely removed by its owner, this will not deter the poachers and they will kill the animal anyway. It takes a lot of effort to poach a rhino, sometimes trekking for many days, cutting fences and risking their lives unseen, whilst tracking a rhino day and night. If the poachers then finally get to the animal to find that all they have is a small stump of a horn, they will kill it regardless and hack out that stump, knowing that that small part will still earn them more money than they would ordinarily make in years.

How can you help?

It’s simple. Spread awareness. Share articles, images and videos that highlight the plight of our rhinos, how crucial it is to protect them and how important it is to educate people about the non-existent medicinal uses of rhino horn.

Chew your nails. Save a rhino.

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Should we all be eating insects?

It’s no secret that we are not using the earth’s resources sustainably, meaning that if we do not change our current habits drastically, the world will be a very different place in the not too distant future. And not in a good way as our supply won’t be able to meet the demand.

The positive news is that a large number of both industries and individuals are becoming more aware of the seriousness of our negative progress, and therefore changing the way that they use natural resources.

Our meat consumption is a huge player in this topic, and as a result, some businesses have even begun implementing a ‘meat-free Monday’ or other meat reduction plans. But is this enough, or is it simply the epitome of ‘too little too late’? However, despite some shocking revelations about the rate that we are using the earth’s resources, I always like to remain optimistic, looking for alternatives to save the world, no matter how damaged it may seem.

A relatively new idea that I recently came across is ‘entomophagy’, which is defined as the human use of insects as a food source.

Whilst this might seem like a bit of a crazy idea for us, two billion people across the world currently already include insects as a food group in their diet. And in fact, you are probably eating insects already and you don’t even know it.

Next time you eat a bag of marshmallows, pink gummy sweets, or in fact anything with pink dye in it, take a look at the ingredients list. If you see the word ‘cochineal’, ‘E120’ or ‘carmines’, you are eating insects. These processed and powdered cochineal bugs are known for producing a beautifully rich dye which means that manufacturers can legally write ‘no artificial colours’ on the packaging.

And if the idea of eating insects still sounds alien to you, let me take you back to the late 16th century, when the potato was first introduced to the Old World by the Spanish. People thought that eating potatoes was a crazy idea as they were seen as very creepy novelty items, whereas today eating potatoes is as normal as eating bread, rice, and other common everyday staple foods. So will insects be the new potato of the 21st century?

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Could insects really be a substitute for meat?

There are currently over 1,900 species of insect that have been recorded for food use around the world, including beetles, caterpillars, wasps and ants. And just like you would with your current food items, insects can be cooked in a variety of different ways with a variety of different spices to flavour them further. In Stefan Gates’s book on eating insects, he says, “we need to continue evolving and adapting our food and our diets to sustain the planet’s population in a way that doesn’t create an untenable burden on existing resources, and exploring new food sources is integral to that.”

I think that this statement is incredibly true, and we certainly do need to explore other ways of utilising the earth’s resources in the most efficient and waste-free way if we want to create a healthier planet. According to the UN, by 2050 there are likely to be 9 billion mouths to feed on earth, so unless we explore new ideas we will never move forwards, or know what works and what doesn’t before it’s too late.

Sure, the idea of eating insects is pretty weird, and not at all what your brain and palate are used to, but surely that’s the same when you try any new food? In the Western world we are used to eating, chicken, for example. And eating chicken seems like a perfectly normal thing to do because we have simply grown up with it, in supermarkets, in restaurants, and on our dinner plates. But imagine if it hadn’t been, if we had only ever seen chickens walking around in the wild…surely we would think it extremely strange to eat that feathered bird that walks around and eats corn?

Are insects better than cattle?

Studies of entomophagy have found that there are huge benefits to the practice, and even some that could outweigh those of eating ‘traditional meat’. As previously mentioned, our current meat consumption across the world is way too high to make it sustainable. Something huge needs to be done about this to make enough of an impact, and substituting some of our beef consumption for insect protein could alleviate a lot of current pressure on the environment.

One of the major reasons why meat is not currently sustainable is due to the amount of feed that the livestock need to grow and be a good protein source for us. In comparison, insects are a lot less wasteful, as well as requiring a lot less land space, and in order to produce protein insects only use 50% of the amount of feed in comparison to chickens and pigs, four times less than sheep and 12 times less than cattle.

The livestock industry also currently produces 44% of all anthropogenic methane greenhouse emissions. In huge contrast, some insects produce less than 100 times less methane compared to beef and pork production, whilst many other insects do not produce any methane at all.

Another highly crucial factor in the meat consumption problem is the element of water. As climate change becomes more prominent in farming methods, focusing on water use is crucial. It currently takes 22,000 litres of water to create just 1kg of beef, not to mention the huge amount of land use that is needed for livestock, both of which are dramatically reduced factors when examining insect production.

As well as these land use facts, insects themselves as a food source have huge nutritional benefits. Insects are generally a very high source of protein, as well as being an excellent source of fat including fatty acids such as omega, which are also found in fish and are essential for organs, the brain and bones. Cricket powder contains over double the amount of protein compared to the same amount of chicken breasts, and insects are also packed with numerous micro-nutrients which include minerals and vitamins, and a rich source of iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium and sodium.

Whilst the idea of including insects in our diets is still a relatively new idea, lots of studies are finding that it really could be one of the ways forward to save our planet.

What do you think, would you give it a try?

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Did you know about these fantastic alternatives to plastic?

We all know that plastic has become a huge problem. We have seen the horrendous images of huge piles of plastic that have been dumped, the plastic that has been caught around marine life after making its way to our oceans, and generic public bins that have been filled with a mix of recyclable plastic and food waste. But it only takes one brisk walk around the local supermarket to see the huge amount of products that use plastic as part of their packaging, whether that be the plastic around vacuum packed toys, or the plastic that surrounds a packet of plum tomatoes. Plastic is everywhere, so how can we prevent this huge problem? The answer is a simple one, we reduce our plastic intake.

The good news is, with an increased awareness of what plastic is doing to our planet, a huge variety of companies and product manufacturers are working hard to use less plastic, and come up with plastic alternatives for every day products.

Why is plastic such a problem?

Although some plastics may seem worse than others, for example, surely the thick, sturdy packaging plastic that protects electrical products is worse than the very thin plastic that holds a pack of peppers, right? Well, although it is of course better to use far less plastic, all plastic is actually made of carbon, together with other materials, that are all heated, broken down and then built up again, to form a plastic resin that can be expertly shaped to fit any desired product packaging. This carbon comes from oil, which is a fossil fuel and is incredibly harmful to our planet.

The resources that plastic is made from are also non-renewable, which means that our current heavy reliance on them as an everyday product is not sustainable. Together with this, the processes that are used to create plastics are also very damaging to our environment, as they produce harmful gases which pollutes our air, land and water.

What does this mean about the future of our planet?

Plastics on earth have become a waste nightmare, mainly because the majority of them do not biodegrade. This means that instead of disintegrating over time, they instead remain intact, often for an infinite amount of years, before they start breaking down into smaller pieces. This is the reason why plastics are such a threat for our wildlife, both on land and in the ocean.

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What are the alternatives?

Although this may sound like a lot of doom and gloom, if we all do a little, by committing to making a few small changes, together we can achieve a lot.

As consciousness increases around the planet’s plastic problem, many companies are coming up with plastic alternatives whilst maintaining the quality of their original products. This means that you can still enjoy the benefits of using the items that you have always liked, without harming the planet. Below are just a few examples of every day products that now have excellent plastic-free alternatives.

Toothbrushes. Everyone uses a toothbrush, and everyone buys a new one after theirs has worn down every few months. So you can imagine just how many toothbrushes have been produced and purchased since the day that they were first invented. This also means that every single plastic toothbrush that has ever been produced is still intact somewhere on the planet; most likely in the ocean. I recently read a statistic which claimed that 1.3 billion toothbrushes are found in the sea every single year. Hearing this shocking statistic really startled me, and I went searching for alternatives immediately. Since that day I have been using toothbrushes made of bamboo, and even got one for each of my family members, who have been converted too! Bamboo toothbrushes are completely biodegradable, meaning that they just break down without harming the planet. And what’s great is that they work just as well as standard plastic toothbrushes, lasting just as long, working just as well and even being cheaper!

Single-use items. If we write down every single item that we use in a typical month, chances are that a lot of these are single-use plastic items that are easily avoidable if we are mindful. Just one example is coffee cups, which are now also being made from bamboo, are reusable, and some coffee shops are even offering discounts on hot drinks if you bring your own cup. These are becoming increasingly popular too, which means that they are being created in a stunning range of creative designs and colours. What’s not to like? As well as this is the plastic knife, fork and spoon that you get with your takeaway lunch. Next time you’re faced with this, ask yourself whether you really need those items that you will simply throw away after one use? Can you get your cutlery from the canteen at work? Or how about keeping a knife and fork from home in your bag to use whenever you need them?

And of course a major item is the plastic water bottle, of which 20,000 are currently being bought every second! I believe that in today’s world, there is just no need to buy single-use plastic bottles when there are so many great alternatives that come in sturdy material that can last years. And finally, single-use plastic bags. The 5p law in shops has been great for reducing our use of single-use carriers, but there is still a long way to go to eradicate plastic bags all together. With so many great canvas designs for fold-up bags that fit in any pocket, there’s no excuse to ever use a plastic bag again.

Plastic cotton buds. Perhaps not as obvious as other major plastic pollutants, cotton buds are a huge problem. I recently saw a very striking and thought provoking image which showed a beautiful little seahorse, with its tail wrapped around a plastic cotton bud. Whilst cotton buds are another common item, the alternative is really simple. You can now purchase cotton buds that look exactly the same, except the plastic part is made of paper.

Plastic wrapped vegetables. For me, there’s something fulfilling about going to a greengrocers and choosing my own vegetables, as opposed to picking up a multipack of pre-selected greens. Perhaps that feeling is just me being a little weird, but regardless, there is no real need for vegetables to be wrapped in the amount of plastic that they are. From a consumer’s point of view, it doesn’t even work out cheaper to buy multipacks, and by being selective, it means that it is a lot easier to only select the amount of fruit or vegetables that you know you will eat.

As you can see, there are many alternatives to everyday items that do not contain plastic, but work just as well. With all of the information that we now have available, together with the shocking images displaying the damage that our excessive plastic use is doing to our planet, now is the time to step up and make a change. If every single person changes just a few things in their daily plastic buying habits, it will have a huge impact on the future of our Earth.

What are you going to do?

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Why we should all love vultures

When most people think of vultures, they envisage giant, feathered, dirty scavengers, the characters from the Lion King hanging around on the branch without really contributing much, and big scary birds to be afraid of. But vultures are in fact hugely important to a healthy ecosystem, and keep everything in balance in the natural world. Today is International Vulture Awareness Day, which is a day to understand and share the plight of these ancient creatures that frankly, the world would be a very different place without.

What actually are vultures?

Vultures are birds of prey that can actually be split up into a total of 23 different species, and each have their own unique role to play within an ecosystem, which they are specially adapted for. In fact, at least one type of vulture can be found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Primarily, they can be split into two types, the New World vultures, which include the Andean condors and are found in the Americas and Caribbean, and the Old World vultures, which are those that can be seen around carcasses in Africa. For this article, we are going to focus mainly on the Old World vultures.

Known as ‘nature’s garbage collectors’, these birds are classed as scavengers because they often eat the leftover parts of carcasses that have been discarded after the initial predators have eaten the main parts of meat, or the parts that other animals are unable to digest.

Why do they get a bad name?

Due to their scavenging nature, vultures have been given a bad name, both when seen by tourists in the wild, by the media and in fiction films. People have the perception of scavengers scrounging from others who have made huge efforts to get their kill, instead of finding their own food. But the truth is, vultures often indulge in the parts of the carcass that would otherwise be left to rot, meaning that diseases would be spread, and frankly, the wild would be a very messy place. According to the IVAD website, studies have shown that in areas that contain no vultures, carcasses can take up to four times longer to decompose, which means a much higher spread of diseases in wild and domestic animals, which can be further spread to humans.

Another reason why they get a bad name is because it has been commonly said that vultures circle above a dying animal, waiting to feed. This is a myth. Whilst it is true that vultures can be seen circling in the sky, what they are actually doing is catching thermals which helps them to stay in the air whilst they look for food using their incredible sense of sight or smell.

Why are they so important?

Although vultures prefer to eat fresh meat, they are still able to consume rotting carcasses due to their strong stomach acid which kills any bacteria from the carcass that would be toxic to other animals. In this way, they are crucial to an ecosystem because they prevent the spread of diseases to many other animals.

When you look at vultures, you will also notice that despite their huge feathers, their head and neck is completely clear of any feathers at all. This is a special adaptation which means that any bacteria or parasites from the rotting carcass cannot latch on to the vultures, which therefore stops any infections.

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How are they under threat?

Perhaps lesser known than the plight of rhinos, tigers and elephants, vultures are also severely under threat for many different reasons. Out of the 23 species of vulture, 14 of those are currently considered to be either threatened or endangered.

One of the factors that aid hugely in their decline is the act of poacher poisoning. This is done in a few different ways depending on the desired outcome. One way is not targeted directly to vultures at all, but can result in a huge number of bird deaths. This involves poachers poisoning an elephant with a dart, for example, which will eventually kill it. Not only is this devastating due to the loss of an elephant, but it also means the death of any other animal that feeds on that carcass, which is now poisoned throughout. Just one elephant that has been killed by dart poisoning could then unintentionally cause the death of a large number of lions, hyenas, leopards and vultures. Furthermore, as many species of vultures work on a single carcass together, this one elephant poisoning could cause the death of hundreds of vultures.

Another way that vultures are poisoned is one that is specifically targeted at killing them. Due to the huge illegal wildlife trade in rhino horn and elephant ivory, there are many carcasses for the vultures to feed on. However, as the vultures are seen locating the carcass in the sky before swooping down to have their meal, these sights of huge numbers of vultures above a carcass are a key signal for the authorities to find the carcass quickly, and be on the tracks of the poachers. As poachers do not want an increased chance of being caught, they purposely poison the carcasses, causing vulture populations to severely decline.

A further factor that causes the decline of vulture populations is ancient traditions in certain cultures that use various parts of a vulture for medicines, of which 29% of vulture deaths are attributed to. In some cases, individuals will use the eyes of a vulture, as they believe that this helps them see into the future due to the impeccable eyesight of the birds, whilst in other cases they will smoke the vulture brains, as they believe this will bring them good luck.

What can you do?

As always, the best thing that you can do is spread awareness on the issues surrounding the drastic declines in vulture populations around the world. The majority of people will not know about their decline, or about why it is so important for us to protect them. The main reason why the drastic decline of vultures is so devastating is because the loss of vultures will also lead to the loss of many other species.

In addition, you can support and donate to organisations that work to protect vultures in the wild, including monitoring their numbers and reducing their threats. These include VulPro, 4Vultures, Tusk, and BirdLife.

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Plastic pollution: what is it doing to our oceans?

As I settled down to watch the new Netflix documentary ‘Chasing Coral’, the follow up to ‘Chasing Ice’ I was feeling a little apprehensive about what I would learn. I knew one thing for sure, I was very excited to see the acclaimed camera skills, stunning colours of the ocean, and fascinating sea creatures, but what I would discover underneath all that was the very visual realisation of what is happening beneath the ocean, a place that not many of us fully understand.

Whilst the main reason behind the dramatic devastation of the corals in the documentary was due to coral bleaching caused by climate change, another key influence that is destroying our oceans is plastic. And I believe that reducing our plastic consumption is something that each of us can do very easily, which can make a huge impact. So that is what I am going to discuss today.

Like most people, I knew that plastic is rapidly damaging our planet, I knew that we do not use the planet’s natural resources sustainably enough, and I knew that there are many alternatives to plastic that we are not utilising. But until recently I did not fully understand the full extent of the damage that using so much plastic is doing to our planet. And the major factor that makes plastic pollution so damaging is the fact that it simply does not break down, and actually takes thousands of years for the smallest plastic product to decay.

What is plastic pollution?

When many of us think about the word ‘pollution’ we often envisage gas, fumes and smoke; the type of things that are caused by air pollution from excessive use of fossil fuels. But in fact, pollution is officially defined as “the introduction of harmful substances or products into the environment.” This leads us to understand that not only can an accumulation of any given product become pollution, but also that volumes of plastic have become so high on our planet that they are severely damaging our planet.

The recent news that an estimated 38 million pieces of plastic were discovered on an island almost entirely untouched by humans was a serious wake up call. Henderson Island is a tiny, uninhabited island located in the eastern South Pacific, and despite being one of the world’s most remote places, it was recently found to contain 99.8% pollution plastic, which equals to almost 18 tonnes.

Whilst scientists thought that the fact that this island is located in such a remote part of the world would safeguard it from plastic pollution, sadly this was not the case. Although no people live on the island, it is home to many creatures that are essential to the ecosystem, but are seriously affected by the plastic that has washed up in their home. Hundreds of crabs were found to be living in discarded plastic items such as bottle caps, and even a doll’s head.

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What is plastic doing to our wildlife?

Currently, plastic pollution statistics state that one rubbish truck full of plastic is being dumped into the ocean every single minute. On top of this, when plastic is taken to rubbish dumps and landfill sites, the pollutants that are in the plastics eventually get released into the surrounding earth, which over time affects both wildlife and ground water leading to the ocean for many years.

While we have all seen photos of various fish in the ocean being tangled in plastic rubbish, what we don’t often realise is that every single life in the ocean is affected by plastic pollution. Tiny organisms such as plankton are ingesting plastic, which poisons their system. This then results in a knock-on effect for all of the sea-life that rely on plankton for their own source of food, and so forth down the food chain, even up to the fish that we are consuming each day.

How does this affect us?

Each one of us is dependent on the health of the sea. Our oceans control the weather, climate, and are a source of life in itself. The huge body of water that covers 71% of our planet is what makes our planet unique within the universe. On top of this, our oceans contain 97% of the Earth’s water that is crucial for our survival, as well as being the main source of food for millions of people around the world.  On our planet, just our reefs alone are a source of income for over 500 million people.

What can we do about it?

Many people are under the illusion that because plastic is everywhere, we cannot avoid using it. And whilst there are currently no alternatives to some essential products that we use, there are many small and simple changes that we can all put in place to make a huge difference. Some examples of these are:

  • Use foldable cloth bags when you go shopping instead of disposable plastic ones
  • Don’t purchase items that come with lots of unnecessary plastic packaging
  • Ditch the disposable water bottles and instead purchase a refillable one
  • Be smart, and think ahead. When you decide to get lunch out, ask yourself whether you really need the plastic knife, fork and spoon that they hand out to you. Instead, can you use cutlery from your work canteen or bring in your own?
  • Recycle everything that you can. Look up the type of plastics that your local council allow you to recycle and make sure you stick to it
  • Purchase biodegradable products whenever you can. There are currently many every day items with these sustainable alternatives on the market, from cutlery to toothbrushes.

It is essential that we urgently reduce our plastic consumption, because as Underwater Photographer and founder of The Ocean Agency, Richard Vevers, stated in Chasing Coral, “Without a healthy ocean we do not have a healthy planet”.

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Why should we care about bees?

The end of June brought with it the end of this year’s Great British Bee Count. And what a tremendous count it was.

It is increasingly becoming common knowledge that bees are in dire need of our help, as their rapid decline also hinders our own survival as a species. With an increased usage of pesticides and other chemicals that are hugely damaging to the lives of bees, as well as other important insects, together with the tremendous effects of climate change, it is evident that there is a lot going against them.

What is the Great British Bee Count?

The Great British Bee Count is a six week-long annual event that encourages people from all over the UK to spend some time outdoors, looking at nature, and searching for bees. Run by environmental organisation Friends of the Earth, this year’s bee count, which finished just a few days ago, was met with huge success. A total of 16,282 individuals took part in counting bees this year, recording a staggering 320,337 bees all over the UK, from the Isles of Scilly to the Shetland Islands.

It is believed that there are currently 35 species of bee that are at risk of extinction in Britain, and the nationwide bee count allows bee specialists to evaluate whether this is still the case, and precisely which species of bee need our help the most.

For those who don’t know, the bee count involved using the concise photo gallery on the Bee Count app to identify which bees you have seen and tally those up, before sending the results on to Friends of the Earth along with the location that the bee was seen. Bees were counted in various spaces, including gardens, forests and parks. My personal bee count was a huge success, with a total of 41 bees found from 6 different species with just one walk around my garden.

Although these numbers may sound reasonably high, this only averages to 20 bees per person, only half the amount that I saw with one walk around my garden, during the height of summer when bee populations are at their most plentiful. I should also add that I live in an area away from big cities and built up areas, meaning that a higher bee population would be expected.

bees

© Jessica Murray

So what’s so special about bees anyway, and why do we need them?

Did you know that around 75% of the food that we all eat needs to be pollinated, and bees are arguably the most efficient and hardest workers when it comes to pollination?

Since the beginning of the 1900s, the UK alone has lost 13 species of bee, with a further 35 currently considered to be under threat of extinction.

Climate change is a result of human impact and not taking as much care and consideration in our daily lives as we should. It is now our responsibility, as a species, to make sure that the animals that we share the planet with are best equipped to deal with the changing climate.

The Great British Bee Count is an incredible way of bringing people together to spend more time in nature, which is reflected in the fact that 97% of participants from last year’s count were inspired to help bees – in the garden, community or via social media.

If humans were to be entirely wiped out from planet Earth, it is believed that the world would eventually rejuvenate and become abundant with nature as it once was. However, if bees were to disappear from the planet, worldwide ecosystems would collapse.

How can you help?

Whilst we know a reasonable amount of information about bees, there is still a huge amount that we don’t know, which is merely heightened by bees changing their behaviour due to climate change. Bee experts are currently tallying up and analysing the results of the count to reveal which bee species are most endangered, and therefore what we can do to help them. After analysing if certain species are declining, they will then be able to study whether this is due to a lack of certain plants, a strong use of pesticides in the area where they normally occur, or changing temperatures.

Monitoring bee populations helps a huge variety of people, from the government and business owners to farmers and gardeners. And through the analysis of this gathered information, we will be able to determine how best to help bees thrive for the future.

Together with species population gathering, taking part in the annual bee count and being conscious of protecting bees sends a vital message to the government about how much we care about their survival. The awareness raised will help the government, as well as the public, to see how crucial a problem this is that urgently needs to be addressed.

Bees need the same things that we do to survive – a safe climate and clean air. So by each of us doing what we can to create the ideal environment to aid bee survival, we are also creating a better environment for ourselves. And if that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.

Here are 3 simple things that you can do today to help bees:

  • Don’t use pesticides that are harmful to bees
  • Plant flowers in your garden that bees love
  • If you see a bee that looks like it’s struggling, give it some sugary water

To learn more about how we can collectively reverse the bee decline, not just in the UK but worldwide, head to Friends of the Earth.

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