Hamza Yassin shares his favourite animal in celebration of British wildlife
Wild Isles, the latest BBC series from everyone’s favourite human Sir David Attenborough, celebrates the range of weird and wonderful wildlife that makes Britain such a beautiful and rich habitat.
Travelling across the country, Sir David brings a diverse cast of wildlife to our screens, from puffins to killer whales, eagles to the large blue butterfly – once extinct on our shores.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts – which cares for many of the locations featured – says: ‘The British Isles are very precious and are inhabited by astonishing wildlife and magical landscapes that capture the imagination. From puffins making their homes on Skomer to fragments of ancient rainforests in Dartmoor, we are so lucky to have such a range of incredible natural wonders right on our doorstep.
‘It is wonderful that Sir David is bringing these treasures to the world.’
However, Bennett notes that for all the beauty on display, there is a more serious message beneath the stunning scenes.
‘The series also comes at a time when nature is under immense pressure,’ he says. ‘Wildlife has suffered catastrophic declines in recent decades and, without monumental effort to create a wilder future, some of our most cherished species will go extinct. We hope this series will inspire people to take a stand for our wildlife and help put out natural world into recovery.
‘Our future depends on it.’
To join in celebrating British wildlife, and raise awareness of what is at risk, Metro asked conservationists to share their favourite animals – starting with Wild Isles cameraman and Strictly winner Hamza Yassin. Don’t forget to share yours in the comments below.
White-tailed and golden eagles
It would have to be one of the two eagles – the white tails or the goldies. I’ve haven’t been lucky enough to see them hunt while I’m sat in my garden drinking tea, so it was a dream come true to be able to film the white-tailed eagles hunting geese for Wild Isles.
I wake up and go to bed thinking about the eagles, the white tails, the goldies, the feeding station, the nest. I’ve been up close and personal with them, as close as nine metres away sometimes. They’re the best things that travel this space of ours. I love them.
Hamza Yassin, Wild Isles cameraman and Strictly winner
I like gannets because they are amazingly built for exactly what they do. I love their nonchalant vertical cliff face nesting tactics. I love their beak clashing courtship rituals. I love being out on a boat and seeing them in a feeding frenzy above a shoal – and you often see porpoise or dolphin in their wake. I love their other worldly blue gaze. I have a picture of one from Bempton Cliffs pinned above a mirror at home. It stares straight down the lens at me and seems to say ‘I am a truly wild being. You will never know me.’
Beccy Speight, CEO of co-producer RSPB
Great spotted woodpecker
The great spotted woodpecker is one of my favourite British birds. I think it’s their striking appearance and lively personalities that captivate me. They’re regular visitors to our garden bird feeder. Their vibrant black and white plumage (with flashes of red) really catches the eye. Their unmistakable drumming sound echoing through the woods is, to me, comforting. I think the great spotted woodpecker’s beauty and distinctive behaviour make it a delightful addition to any birdwatcher’s list.
Natalie White, co-founder of the Birda app
The lynx is my favourite British animal. It is temporarily missing from our woods and we all need to support calls to make its return a reality. The lynx is a beautiful, elusive, keystone species and our ecosystems have been diminished ever since it became extinct in Britain. It would and should have been one of the stars of Wild Isles – and it’s time this incredible creature came back!
Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts
My favourite British species is the pine martin. This elusive woodland species, formerly found over much of the UK, is now found mostly in the north, particularly in the Scottish Highlands. However, it is starting to recover and expand its range, but that recovery is fragile, as the woodlands pine martens depend on are under threat – today they cover less of our landscape than those in most other countries in Europe. UK nature is in crisis and we must protect and reconnect the woodlands we have left and expand them for the future – otherwise we risk losing beautiful species that are essential to the UK’s biodiversity, including the pine martin.
Paul de Ornellas, chief wildlife advisor at co-producer WWF-UK
My favourite British wild animal is the red kite, the first bird I learned to identify, with their distinctive forked tails. I would stop and stare if I spotted one flying. They are an incredible success story – at one point they were extinct in England and Scotland, but the successful reintroduction programme means there are now more than 5,000 breeding pairs in England alone! I now work on ZSL’s Wildlife Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance team, monitoring the red kite population to ensure that if a new threat or disease appears, we will identify it early. I still stop and stare when I see one flying.
Dr Elysé Summerfield-Smith, wildlife veterinarian and research associate at the Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology
Puffins have got to be one of the most iconic British animals for me! They’re so small and joyful, with their slightly clownish look, and sandeels hanging out of their brightly-coloured beaks. Sadly, puffins are under threat from human activities such as overfishing and pollution. We must protect our seas to help this vulnerable species. I’ve spent hours watching them on the Isle of May in Scotland, and I just love them. They’re like we’ve been gifted a flashy, tropical, exotic bird but in a much humbler, miniature package.
Sandy Luk, CEO of the Marine Conservation Society
While I have many favourites, one that springs to mind at this time of year is the common brimstone. Often the first butterfly I see each spring, its cheerfully lemon-yellow wings are a herald of sunnier times ahead. Although assessed as Least Concern in Europe according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and widespread in England and Wales, its population is steadily declining in the UK. One likely factor is decreasing habitat for the adults to hibernate overwinter. One way to help the brimstone (and many other species) is to leave wild spaces in parks and gardens.
Janet Scott, programme officer in the IUCN Red List Unit
The BBC’s Wild Isles, co-produced RSPB, WWF and the Open University, starts today on BBC One and iPlayer
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