What does Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for South West Devon, have in common with a tiny – and very rare – spider called the horrid ground-weaver?
Why is Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, speaking up about the scarce fen orchid?
And what links Labour’s Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, with the fast-declining swift?
The answer is that these English MPs are all Species Champions. Each has signed up to become their chosen species’ political champion at Westminster, in a novel initiative hoping to raise the profile of some of our most threatened species.
Every Species Champion is partnered with a conservation organisation that helps to keep the MP or MEP up-to-date on the problems facing their species, and the work being done to save it.
Organisations taking part include the RSPB, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Buglife, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, Plantlife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, London Wildlife Trust and People’s Trust for Endangered Species.
Julie Girling MEP is Species Champion for the Bewick’s swan, a migratory species whose European wintering population has fallen by more than a third since 1995. She said that it was vital that “we work across borders to ensure the preservation of migratory birds” and described the swan’s decline as a “tragedy.”
“The Species Champions project is based on a highly successful scheme launched in Scotland in 2013, in which dozens of MSPs haven taken part,” explains Jamie Wyver of the RSPB.
“We trialled a similar version of the scheme in south-west England in 2014,” Jamie says. “It was so successful that we are now rolling it out more widely in both London and Brussels.”
Species Champions at the Westminster and Brussels parliaments so far include:
- Bewick’s swan, Julie Girling MEP, South West England and Gibraltar, Conservative
- Bittern, Therese Coffey MP, Suffolk Coastal, Conservative
- Cirl bunting, Sarah Wollaston MP, Totnes, Conservative
- Common tern, Jim Nicholson MEP, Northern Ireland, Ulster Unionist
- Dunnock, Jess Phillips MP, Birmingham Yardley, Labour
- Fen orchid, Norman Lamb MP, North Norfolk, Liberal Democrats
- Hen harrier, Angela Smith MP, Penistone and Stocksbridge, Labour
- Horrid ground-weaver, Gary Streeter MP, South West Devon, Conservative
- Marsh fritillary, Neil Parish MP, Tiverton and Honiton, Conservative
- Redshank, Matt Warman MP, Boston and Skegness, Conservative
- Shrill carder bee, Charlotte Leslie MP, Bristol North West, Conservative
- Smooth snake, Desmond Swayne MP, New Forest West, Conservative
- Snake’s-head fritillary, Richard Benyon MP, Newbury, Conservative
- Spreading bellflower, Bill Wiggins MP, North Herefordshire, Conservative
- Stag beetle, Seb Dance MEP, London, Labour
- Striped lychnis, Steven Brine MP, Winchester, Conservative
- Swift, Kerry McCarthy MP, Bristol East, Labour
- Turtle dove, Catherine Bearder MEP, South East England, Liberal Democrats
- Violet click beetle, Harriet Baldwin MP, West Worcestershire, Conservative
Main image: Bewick’s swan. © Mike Lane/iStock