The Species Champion Initiative was launched by Scottish Environment LINK’s Wildlife Forum in January 2013 and continues to invite all MSPs to choose from a list of species that are currently facing significant threats to their future – and then champion their survival.
Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart chose the Great yellow bumblebee. This species has had its fair share of ups and downs in recent years, but a BBCT-led project in Caithness (Thurso: Gateway to the Great Yellow), is making new steps towards a achieving sustainable habitat creation and restoration across Caithness, one of the last strongholds of the Great yellow. With help from David Stewart MSP, we were able to get the message out to a far wider range of people. He opened our consultation phase in a pop-up shop in Thurso (May 2014), attended by local and national media, and the project continues to create a buzz in the local press.
David continues to champion the causes not only of this rare iconic bee but all pollinators, pushing for a national pollinator strategy. Most recently, in November 2015 in the Holyrood debating chamber, he asked a question to the Scottish Parliament conceming progress towards the Scottish Pollinator Strategy. The strategy opened for consultation four months later, a crucial step forward in protecting this pivotal group of species which underpin so much of our ecosystems.
The English Species Champions initiative invites Members of Parliament to lend their political support to the protection and promotion of threatened wildlife by becoming ‘Species Champions’ for a species selected by BBCT and other species conservation charities as relevant to their constituency or interests.
The support that the MP lends includes:
- raising awareness of the species and threats to it and relating this to the development of public policy and legislation,
- taking opportunities to highlight their species during Parliamentary business, and
- working collaboratively with partnership member assigned to the species to inform and support them in their work.
The overall objective of the Species Champions project is to improve the wellbeing of specific threatened species within the UK.
The project has secondary objectives as an opportunity for partner organisations to establish closer relationships with MPs and to encourage more MPs to speak up for nature in Parliament.
BBCT currently has three species Champions. Charlotte Leslie MP for Bristol North (Cons) championing the Shrill carder bee, Claire Perry MP for Devizes (Cons) championing the Broken-belted bumblebee, and Daniel Zeichner MP for Cambridge (Lab) championing the Ruderal bumblebee. At the launch in March Daniel Zeichner met with CEO Gill Perkins and received his ‘bee poster’ (pictured above).
Each MP has received a fact sheet about their bee and will be encouraged during the summer to visit areas where the bee may be found and learn more about them.
The Species Champion initiative in Wales was launched on 15th June 2016, and continues to invite all AMs to choose a species which is present in the area they represent, and which is facing significant threats to their future. The aim is to raise the profile of Welsh nature in the Welsh Assembly.
BBCT has put forward two species – the Shrill carder bee and Bilberry bumblebee – and so far Leanne Wood, AM for Rhondda and leader of Plaid Cymru has become Champion for Bilberry bumblebee. We hope that this initiative will raise the profile of the importance of bumblebees as pollinators and as a unique part of our wildlife. We also hope to raise the profile of the work we are doing in Wales, and celebrate the fantastic work of our volunteers and partners.
“Few people realise just how important bumblebees are. They are charming little things and a pleasure to see, but they also do an essential job which many people take for granted. If bumblebees continue to decline then we face ecological turmoil. Join BBCT today and support their important work.”
Naturalist, Television presenter