We’ve received an excellent response on our petition so far. With over 5,500 people having signed, we wanted to give a little information on why saving Bewick’s is important to us, as well as the wider implications of the petition.
Why is saving swans important to us?
WWT founder Sir Peter Scott was enamoured with these winter visitors. He started a monitoring programme which pieced together a profile of these mysterious, beautiful birds. The facts that these studies revealed about the lives of these birds are as romantic and epic as the myths that preceded them: a vast migration between distant landscapes to avoid the icy grip of the arctic winter, guided by the stars and the earth’s magnetic field; pairs bonded for life; a tendency to return to familiar grounds year after year. No wonder Sir Peter chose the Bewick’s swan to be WWT’s logo—it is as unique and remarkable a species as the panda, which he chose for WWF. Inspired by Sir Peter’s work, our mission today is to stop this remarkable, romantic story from becoming a tragedy.
With so many species under threat, why sign to save swans?
Unfortunately, the swans’ struggle is a story that is repeated for so many aspects of our natural world. They are just one of thousands of species that rely on the wetlands that are under threat all along the flyway. Action taken to protect Bewick’s will help halt and reverse the decline of many other species which we are at risk of losing, as well as bringing huge benefits for people*. Of course, there are many contributing factors, but the science is pointing to two standout causes of the widespread decline; environmental crime and land-use change. These are key issues that we’re trying to tackle with our petition.
With biodiversity undergoing global decline, a campaign to save an animal which most people know little about might seem like a drop in the ocean for some. But just as our efforts to save Bewick’s will need to stretch far beyond this expedition, a key strength of the expedition is in telling the story of these magnificent birds in a way which might capture the imagination of generations of people - people that are essential to any lasting change.
Why a petition?
The Flight of the Swans expedition is achieving great things on the ground, spreading awareness and forging links which should prove invaluable for the international conservation community, as it works collaboratively to monitor and protect the birds. The insight gained from communities and conservation groups so far has shown that people are willing to do their bit to protect the swans.
But along the swans’ migration route, Sacha is seeing how - like so many species - Bewick’s rely on legally protected sites to rest, feed or breed. Every swan faces hundreds of localised threats as it migrates across the continent, and we need to ensure that policy is put in place to improve the odds for these birds throughout. We need to make decision makers aware that this is a priority for a great many people, which demands action now.
Policy in the UK – no time like the present
Whatever your views on the EU referendum, there’s no question that vital protections enforced by the EU nature laws are now at risk. The UK can still play its part in international protection, but the laws that protect nature are under attack by those who want to exploit our natural world. As the UK Government works on its manifesto promise for a 25 year environment plan, we have an opportunity to drive change, but we need to make our voices heard. We want Government to defend the Nature Directives in the UK and extend the laws of nature with new legally-binding targets to improve our environment – for swans and people.
How will my signature help?
So, how will my signature on this make any real difference? We talk about awareness, but the long term benefits of this may come too late if action is not taken now. By signing, you are showing that this is an issue that people do need to pay attention to. We need to make sure that the Government’s environment plan isn’t just empty words, but gives wetlands and wildlife the legal protection they need to thrive.
When Flight of the Swans is over, we will still have a long way to go in securing a future for Bewick’s swans, and we are unlikely to see policy changes coming into immediate effect on a global level. But in getting involved in the conversation, voicing your opinion and spreading the idea that we can halt their decline, by helping leverage policy changes and showing policy makers that this issue is of importance to a great many people, you will have opened up another chapter in a story which might just have a happy ending.
So what next?
Please, if you haven’t already, encourage your friends, colleagues or family to add their signature to our petition.
Sacha will be handing over the petition in Westminster as she flies through London - more news on this to follow.
Thank you so much for your support.