Science mourns a cuckoo, while the countryside mourns a gathering of like-minded conservationists.
‘Chris’ the cuckoo died a few years back. We know this, or more accurately assume it, because the satellite tag ‘died’. The cuckoo inspired Country Living to celebrate the bird’s contribution to science and after the BBC reported ‘Chris’ missing in action, others lead the outpouring of grief.
The same week it was announced in a brief statement that the Game Fair would come to an end. Thoughts were fleshed out as to why – possibly due to the plethora of other countryside events – and there was sadness, even shock, at the disappearance of this bastion of countryside gatherings.
We require both evidence based science and local knowledge to enable conservation to work today.
The Game Fair was a meeting place for all those interesting in the countryside. Not just in fieldsports, but in conservation that is intrinsic to the countryside. Away from PR departments, media spinners, membership targets, and HQ directives; conservation NGOs, shooting, hunting, fishing, and a multitude of outdoor interests swapped anecdotal stories, compared notes, and learnt more from dialogue with other.
It was fertile ground for common ground.
Many of the most positive conversations I’ve had over the years with GWCT, RSPB, BTO, BASC, Defra, Natural England et al, have been a world away from the divisive material aired on media or produced by polarising press releases.
Science is vital in assessing not just data for the State of Nature (based on data from a mere 5% of 59,000 terrestrial and freshwater UK species with minimal data on our 8,500 marine species – page 7), but also in helping allocate funding and guide conservation practice at the ‘grass roots’. Satellite tagging (whether cuckoos, house martins or woodcock) is only one way of adding to this data – along with the positive engagement of a wider audience – while also aiming to share data from garden, farmland bird counts or gamebag census.
These two books are equally vital – we must blend the scientific evidence from ‘What works in Conservation‘ with the human psychology of ‘Conflicts in Conservation‘ to have any meaningful impact on enhancing biodiversity within our human-dominated environment.
Much as I hope another cuckoo is tagged for science, I equally hope that another countryside event rises phoenix-like from the ashes to help us share anecdotal knowledge to help flesh out evidence-informed research to benefit us all.
Postscript 2018: new cuckoos and Game Fair have thankfully materialised.