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  1. ITV Report

Urgent action needed to save wildlife in the West Country

There's a warning that urgent action is needed to save wildlife in the West Country from becoming extinct.

Conservationists say that almost half of species they've studied have declined in the last 40 years.

More intensive farming methods and climate change are some of the things being blamed. But conservation teams say there is also hope the decline can be reversed.

The Exe estuary is one of only two places in Devon for lapwing breeding Credit: ITV News

The Exe estuary is where the city meets the sea. Mud flats revealed as the tide retreats provide vital habitats for wading birds.

It is one of only two places in Devon that Lapwings now breed, but like the bird, that habitat is also at risk. With railway lines on both sides, it is threatened by coastal squeeze.

As sea levels rise the mudflats start to disappear.

Rising sea levels threaten the mud flats Credit: ITV News

Conservationists say the number of places you can find a breeding lapwing in Devon has fallen by 97% in under 40 years. It is now globally threatened.

This is a species which used to be widespread in the county, but it's not just lapwing. It's species like Cuckoo, iconic species that we're losing at a pace and we need to do something to put these creatures back in the landscape.

– RSPB
Mud flats are vital for wading birds Credit: ITV News

Wembury is special area of conservation and is looked after by a partnership of landowners and environmental groups.

Conservationists say what happens here shows that wildlife decline can be halted.

These rockpools are home to a rare species of crab Credit: ITV News

The St Piran's crab is a very rare species that has been reintroduced into the area - as Stephen Hussey from Devon Wildlife trust explains.

"This crab went locally extinct in the south west, probably in the 1980's and it was thought it was the result of pollution, things like the Torrey Canyone disaster in 1967 finally did for it.

"But it was rediscovered in Cornwall and here earlier this year, so it is a success story, it shows that if we get the environment right for wildlife, it can regenerate itself. It's that step of getting things right which is so important."

Nearby birds like the Cirl Bunting are thriving thanks to the hard work of local farmers and conservation teams.

Conservation schemes are helping some species Credit: ITV News

But the State of Nature report warns more than half the species in the UK are in decline. Plants, animals, birds and animals and insects all affected.

The report says farmers can be part of the solution Credit: ITV News

The report found “agricultural change was by far the most significant driver of declines” and said wildlife protection schemes carried out by some farmers - while beneficial - remained at a small scale,“at present, the hoped-for widespread recovery of farmland wildlife is yet to be seen.”