whooper swan recovery offers rewilding hope


Efforts to protect wetlands in the United Kingdom have led to a predicted doubling of the number of whooper swans by 2030, according to scientists from the Universities of Exeter and Helsinki. The whooper swan, known for its trumpet-like call, migrates from Iceland to overwinter across the UK. The researchers analysed 30 years of data on over 10,000 wild swans and found that the swans were benefitting from special protection in nature reserves, which were key to the survival of the bird. The study found that survival rates were significantly higher at nature reserves, and population growth was so strong that it boosted numbers elsewhere.

Three nature reserves at Welney in Norfolk, Martin Mere in Lancashire, and Caerlaverock in southwest Scotland give special protection to wild swans, with measures including fencing out predators, avoiding farming methods that disturb the land, and sighting the reserves away from hazards such as power lines.

The research suggests that the setting aside of 30% of the planet for nature could help reverse decades of biodiversity loss. In December 2020, nearly 200 countries signed up to a plan to protect 30% of lands and seas for nature by 2030 in an attempt to halt and reverse biodiversity decline. Highly-protected areas that allow nature to recover are at the heart of this global effort.

Prof Stuart Bearhop of the University of Exeter said, “The big message is that nature reserves can operate as very good protectors of wildlife. If we could get 30% of the world protected – and protected in the right way – we are going absolutely in the right direction”. Providing the highest possible protection for the swan was key to its success. Humanity relies on healthy global ecosystems for clean air and water, as well as food. However, species of plants and animals are disappearing at an unprecedented rate.

The study provides strong evidence that nature reserves are hugely beneficial for whooper swans and could dramatically increase their numbers in the UK. The whooper swans can be seen between October and March in Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England, and parts of East Anglia. The success of protecting the whooper swans offers hope that other endangered species could also be protected by setting aside protected areas for nature.



At Natural World Fund, we are passionate about stopping the decline in our wildlife.

The declines in our wildlife is shocking and frightening. Without much more support, many of the animals we know and love will continue in their declines towards extinction.

When you help to restore a patch of degraded land through rewilding to forests, meadows, or wetlands, you have a massive impact on the biodiversity at a local level. You give animals a home and food that they otherwise would not have had, and it has a positive snowball effect for the food chain.

We are convinced that this is much better for the UK than growing lots of fast-growing coniferous trees, solely to remove carbon, that don’t actually help our animals to thrive.

This is why we stand for restoring nature in the UK through responsible rewilding. For us, it is the right thing to do. Let’s do what’s right for nature!

Support our work today at https://naturalworldfund.com/ and join in the solution!


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