Hundreds of wildlife enthusiasts have gathered from across the country to take part in a “people’s walk” through London to raise awareness of the catastrophic declines in Britain’s plants and animals.
An eclectic mix of participants that included Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, musician Billy Bragg and the major environmental groups gathered in Hyde Park before marching on Downing Street.
Led by naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, The People’s Walk for Wildlife was organised as a peaceful protest in response to the failure of political efforts to save species from near extinction.
People of all ages were encouraged to dress as their favourite animals and play a chorus of birdsong from their phones in a show of solidarity with Britain’s wildlife.
The walk was accompanied by the release of a manifesto that laid out nearly 200 measures conceived by wildlife experts to save the UK’s nature.
A copy of the manifesto, which includes suggestions ranging from twinning schools with local farms to introducing a tax on pesticides, was handed to Downing Street as the march drew to a close on Saturday afternoon.
Packham said The People’s Walk for Wildlife was initially “born out of frustration” with the way conservation has been handled in the UK.
“We conservationists have got our fingers on the pulse of the UK’s countryside and many of the species that live there with a great degree of accuracy,” he told The Independent.
“So we know with authority that many of our species are in deep trouble.”
“If we don’t take some action to look after them now, we are going to lose them,” said Packham.
Habitat destruction and the intensification and farming have been some of the major culprits blamed for these declines, but Packham insisted we have the tools to make things better.
He said he wanted the event to unite those from across British conservation and act as “a celebration of young people’s interest in the natural world”.
Attendees at the march heard talks from scientists and conservationists involved in the creation of the manifesto, specialising in everything from rewilding to nature-friendly farming, laying out their strategies for the future.
The ultimate goal is to galvanise policy makers, conservation groups and the general public to begin implementing these changes and save wildlife from “mass extinction in our own backyard”.
“[People] have travelled from all over the UK – from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England and they have come to Hyde Park because they want to show through strength of numbers that we as a community care – but now, critically, we are going to take some action too,” said Packham.