Discovery of ‘lost’ spider delights conservationists

Not seen since 1993, the Great Fox-Spider was thought to be confined to the history books, as yet another rare British species of spider that had gone extinct.

However, almost thirty years later, an intrepid spider enthusiast stumbled across some spiderlings and adults thought to belong to the species, while checking out an old Ministry of Defence site.

With furry grey bodies and eight beady black eyes, the Great Fox-Spider is only known to have been discoverable in three specific parts of Dorset and Surrey. The discovery of living specimens, especially ones with plenty of spiderlings, has been welcomed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust.

The UK is home to a range of rare and endangered species, so the Great Fox-Spider’s resurgence serves as a moment to celebrate the fragility, resilience and biodiversity of the country’s wildlife.

The UK has many endangered species

One of the most endangered animals in the UK is the red squirrel. According to the National Trust, just 140,000 live in the UK, compared to several million grey squirrels. One of the biggest problems red squirrels have faced is diseases spread by their grey counterparts.

Hedgehogs are another rare species found in the natural environment here in the UK. Distinctive for their spiky quills and inquisitive snouts, hedgehogs have seen their numbers drop sharply in the last century. However, the British Hedgehog Protection Society believes they may be undergoing a revival, especially in urban areas.

One of the ways we can help sustain these endangered animals is changing how we look after our gardens. For example, the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals suggests that people can leave parts of the garden wild, allowing hedgehogs to build nests from leaves. Feeding is also encouraged – hedgehogs are known to be partial to a bit of tinned cat or dog food!

Conservation makes a difference worldwide

The UK isn’t alone in fighting to preserve its biodiversity. A report from the UN warned that one million species of animals and plants are on the brink of extinction worldwide. In the scheme of things, that might sound like small fry – especially considering that 99 per cent of all life that ever existed is believed to have already gone extinct in Earth’s long history.

But this isn’t a reason for us to not make an effort to save what we currently have through conservation. The journal Conservation Letters suggests that, if humans had simply done nothing since 2010, extinction rates for birds and mammals would have been three to four times’ higher than they actually were.

This suggests we’re making a difference already in protecting vulnerable forms of wildlife. Just imagine what could be possible, if we go even further in the next decade.

Biodiversity was a key topic of discussion at this year’s EU Green Week. Read all about what the EU is doing to protect the natural environment in our piece here.

Main feature photo credit : Mike Waite / Surrey Wildlife Trust

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