Wales

Rare animals and plants paired with Welsh politicians

Lapwings are one of the 60 species
Image caption Lapwings have suffered a serious decline in numbers in Wales in recent years and have been 'adopted' by Huw Irranca Davies

Wales' rarest species of animal, bird and plant are being assigned an assembly member each to champion their cause.

From red squirrels to dolphins, 60 of the most threatened wildlife in Wales will be paired with a politician.

Early adopters included John Griffiths, who will speak up on behalf of water voles and Llyr Gruffydd who will "look after" dormice.

It follows a similar scheme undertaken by members of the Scottish Parliament.

AMs will be given opportunities to take part in visits and conservation activities and will be expected to promote their species in the Senedd.

The initiative is being run by the Wales Environment Link (Wel), a coalition of environmental charities.

They argue the current assembly term is particularly important for Welsh nature, with international targets looming to halt wildlife declines by 2020.

Under the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity these include seeing a "definitive recovery in the number, range and genetic diversity" of threatened species.

A report published by 25 conservation groups in 2013 argued that wildlife was at crisis point in Wales, with 60% of the species studied having declined over the last half century and one in 10 facing extinction.

Politicians are being offered species which are close to home in terms of conservation work going on in their regions or constituencies.

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Media captionJohn Griffiths meets the water vole

Labour AM for Newport East Mr Griffiths has agreed to champion the water vole, Britain's fastest declining wild mammal.

The population in the UK has fallen by over 95% from its estimated pre-1960 level of around 8m to 220,000 in 2004.

A re-introduction project has been undertaken at Magor Marsh nature reserve in Mr Griffiths's constituency.

"They're lovely little creatures," he told BBC Wales.

"Whatever aspect of nature we use to engage with people, to fire the imagination of children and schools is really valuable in getting key message across. We want biodiversity, we don't want creatures we have always cherished to become extinct."

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Media captionLlyr Gruffydd meets the dormouse

Meanwhile in North Wales, Plaid Cymru's Llyr Gruffydd has agreed to speak out on behalf of the dormouse.

607 of the highly endangered mammals have been micro-chipped at Bontuchel Wood near Ruthin and are being monitored by the North Wales Wildlife Trust.

Mr Gruffydd said the scheme would give politicians and the wider public "a stronger affinity" with nature.

"They will be more mindful of certain developments in their constituencies affecting species that are quite unique to their area perhaps," he said.

"This is one way we can make sure there are stronger voices speaking up for the environment in Wales."

'Plight'

James Byrne, living landscapes manager for Wildlife Trusts Wales said the aim of the campaign was to show the range of biodiversity on offer in Wales and "to put nature at the heart of government."

"Iconic species to Wales such as the curlew and lapwing could be lost within a generation," he said.

"But most people don't know that - and that's why we need our politicians to highlight their plight in the Senedd and help Welsh Government reverse the trends in their decline."

Image copyright PA
Image caption There are 6,000 pairs of puffins in Paul Davies's constituency

Among the other species adopted at a launch on Wednesday were Arctic terns, otters, red squirrel and dolphin.

  • Gower AM Rebecca Evans has an extra constituent to keep an eye on - the Black Oil Beetle
  • Russell George will help conserve the Pearl Bordered Fritillary, whose last remaining stronghold in Wales is in his Montgomeryshire constituency.
  • Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies will adopt the puffin, a familiar face with around 6,000 breeding pairs on Skomer Island off the coast.
  • Huw Irranca Davies - Lapwing
  • Rhun ap Iorwerth - Chough
  • Elin Jones - sea trout (sewin)
  • Kirsty Williams - brown trout
  • Ken Skates - salmon

The butterfly Small Blue might appeal to another of the Conservatives, but conservationists will be hoping politicians do not worry too much about being associated with the Grizzled Skipper, the fungus Purple Earth Tongue, or the Common Toad.

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