'MAMMAL MANIA' A conference on British Mammals organised by The Suffolk Naturalists' Society and the Forestry Authority, supported by The Mammal Society and The Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Ipswich School Conference Centre, Saturday 31st October 1992. Opening Address by the Earl of Cranbrook, Patron of the Suffolk Naturalists' Society & Chairman of British Nature The Autumn Conference of the Suffolk Naturalists' Society has become a welcome fixture in the calendar of natural history and biological conservation. I am delighted to have this chance to congratulate the Society for Staging yet another Conference that, to judge by the calibre of speakers and by the size of the audience here today, is clearly once again set to be a resounding success. We are now half way through the period of time set for the Suffolk Mammals Survey. This ambitious project was launched in January 1990, with the aim of collecting reliable and up to date information on the distribution of mammals - rare and common - throughout our large county. The five-year Programme is being coordinated by the Suffolk Biological Records Centre, and I am glad to take this opportunity of thanking Ipswich Borough Council, most sincerely for its invaluable support for this Centre, which is housed at the Ipswich Museum. The SBRC has its equivalents in other counties and, together, the records they gather are contributing towards an urgently needed nature conservation database for all England. Today marks the publication of the Provisional Atlas of Suffolk Mammals, incorporating all records received up to August 1992. It is exciting to see how far the programme has progressed. Some blank spaces I fear will remain so for several of our threatened species but other blanks testify to the work still to be done. Congratulations to the contributing recorders. More help must be needed and I for one will be stimulated to tackle one or two of my local map squares. I am certain that mapping is an ideal way of referencing biological data, and I am pleased that English Nature is involved in projects to establish national databases. We have a fĂźll and interesting programme ahead of us today. Dr Johnny Birks, an English Nature staff member, will be speaking on his speciality. English Nature as the statutory nature conservation Organisation for this country is also involved in different ways with other mammals that will be discussed today. First badgers. In October 1991, the Badgers Act came into effect affording protection to badger setts and requiring us to undertake additional licensing responsibilities. A subsection within the existing Licensing Branch was formed to take on the duties concerning badgers. Our aims have been to define and promote good practice among people now requiring licenses, in order to ensure practical implementation while meeting the intentions of the Act, which are to avoid cruelty to badgers. The approach has been developed
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in close liaison with the other country nature conservation agencies and with M A F F , which has overlapping responsibilities, and in consultation with other parties, especially local badger groups. In the first year of Operation, I am told, 2289 telephone enquiries have been answered, 126 items of written advice provided and 314 licences issued: 51 for scientific or conservation purposes, 5 to take badgers for marking, 4 to possess badgers and, to permit interference with setts, 57 on the grounds of development, 195 for investigation of offences, 2 for archaeology or preservation of ancient monuments and, as yet, none for fox control to protect wildlife. I am glad that we shall be discussing bats today. There is a continuing high interest nationwide. English Nature has a network of Species Protection Officers who undertake duties at the regional level. There is also now a local bat group in every English County and I acknowledge and welcome the close integration of activity involving volunteers, coordinated through the Bat Conservation Trust. I am pleased that English Nature grant-aids the Bat Conservation Trust and I believe that arrangements to appoint bat group members as Voluntary Wardens is working well. The role of the Vincent Wildlife Trust in supporting bat groups, and organising training and educational events is very welcome. As most of you will know, there are three bat SSSIs in Suffolk, which are nationally important hibernating sites, notably for Daubenton's and Natterers. Bob Stebbings, of course, has been closely involved in the protection of these sites for many years. The red squirrel, which we shall also be hearing about, is - with the dormouse - one of the subjects of English Nature's Species Recovery Programme, launched in April 1991. The aim of this programme istoachieve long-term, self-sustained survival in the wild of species currently under threat of extinction in England. John Gurnell is a co-worker in the squirrel Programme and, no doubt, will be telling us about progress in Thetford Forest. I shall merely say how much I appreciate the support of the Forestry Authority and Forestry Enterprise in the red squirrel programme. I also welcome the gathering momentum of parallel initiatives in northeast England where grey-free enclaves still exist and, I hope, soon, also in northwest England. The red squirrel programme, and the subject of deer, bring us up against tricky issues of wild mammal species management. We have to recognise that, in the long run, fostering the red squirrel will mean deterring the grey. Equally, there are places, especially lowland woodlands, where unchecked increases in deer populations are not compatible with protection of the nature conservation interest. Indeed, if we are to see successful expansion of broadleaf woodland habitat in lowland England, especially through public involvement in schemes such as the new Community Forests, it may be incumbent on the statutory authorities to get together with the voluntary movement to devise acceptable strategies for the control of serious woodland pests. In my role as Opener of this conference, I offer this thought to Richard Smith who has kindly accepted the Obligation of closing it at the end of the day! Let me come back to our starting point, the Suffolk Mammal Survey. From
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the scientific viewpoint, in English Nature we place importance on four functions: 1. The establishment of reliable baseline data. 2. The development of methodologies to evaluate and assimilate the data. 3. The monitoring of change and assessment of trends in relation to the resource. 4. Understanding management needs and implementing processes to meet agreed targets for nature conservation. Each of these steps requires scientific input. Each is a big task. Nationally, I am convinced that the widest possible cooperative effort is essential if we are to succeed. I welcome this conference as one of many routes to achieve the necessary common drive. Let me express thanks to the joint organisers, especially the SNS, the Forestry Authority, the Mammals Society and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, as well as others named on our programme sheet. Let me also warmly welcome our two chairmen for the day. First, for this morning, SNS President, Dr Bob Stebbings, whom I much admire for his many qualities - for his distinguished shock of prematurely grey hair, for his lifelong dedication to bat conservation, for his courage - after nearly 30 years in public Service - in breaking free to set up his own consultancy firm from which base he continues to make an enormous contribution to wildlife conservation. And secondly, Richard Smith, who has pursued a dedicated and successful career in British forestry, and has now attained the key post of Chief Conservator of the Authority in England. All this, and he has the wise sense to live in Suffolk and the kindness to be here to guide us through the afternoon session.
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