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Advances in the conservation of British mammals, 1954–2004: 50 years of progress with The Mammal Society


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    Delivered at 50th Easter Conference and AGM of The Mammal Society at the University of Leicester, 17 April 2004.


1. The Mammal Society was established in 1954 to link amateurs and professionals in promoting the study of mammals. It now directly assists British conservation science, and has fostered The British Deer Society, the National Federation of Badger Groups, The Bat Conservation Trust, the Ungulate Research Group and Sea Watch Foundation. The Society also has strong links with the Zoological Society of London, the Vincent Wildlife Trust and the People's Trust for Endangered Species/Mammals Trust UK, as well as with many other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and statutory bodies.

2. The Mammal Society provides fora for discussion, scientific symposia, mammal publications, and practical studies. It has also instigated major advances in the presentation of scientific knowledge through three editions of The Handbook of British Mammals under three successive editors: H.N. Southern, G.B. Corbet and S. Harris.

3. From the 1970s the Society has highlighted conservation concerns (e.g. the decline of otters and persecution and management of badgers), informed legislation, supported many surveys, including harvest mice, pine marten, polecat, small rodents, hares, yellow-necked mice and foxes, and published authoritative species’ accounts, guides to methodology, Mammal Review, Notes/Communications from The Mammal Society, the annual Current Projects on British Mammals and other scientific and educational material.

4. Country-wide mammal recording and training (Look Out for Mammals) developed in the 1990s alongside the Endangered British Mammals Fund. The ‘ground breaking’A Red Data Book for British Mammals, and A Review of British Mammals, both drew on Mammal Society expertise, helping to meet the UK Government's conservation responsibilities and emphasizing the growing influence of The Society. Co-operative monitoring has been developed with the British Trust for Ornithology through the Winter Mammal Monitoring scheme and is further projected with more than 20 NGOs and statutory bodies forming the ‘Tracking Mammals Partnership’.

5. The Mammal Society now advises on UK Biodiversity Action Plans and plays a lead role in UK mammal conservation, highlighting problems and promoting solutions. However, many British mammals are still declining, many are neither legally protected nor subject to national conservation initiatives, and data are still lacking on the status of many terrestrial and most marine species. Much has been done, but there is still much to do.