The Mammal Society, with support from Waitrose & Partners’ Golden Jubilee Trust scheme and the University of Sussex, have launched a project to investigate the impact of plastic pollution on Britain’s small mammals. Read our press release here.
As highlighted by the BBC’s Blue Planet, plastic in our seas threatens marine mammals. However, almost nothing is known about impacts on land mammals. This study will assess the exposure of wild mammals to waste plastics across the UK by gathering data on the presence of plastics in small mammal faeces.
How can you help?
Whether you are a university student or part of a wildlife group that would like to take part in humane mammal trapping to collect droppings, a member of the public with hedgehogs or other small mammals in your garden, working for a wildlife rescue centre, or simply want to help the cause, you can help by:
- Sending us small mammal droppings you spot in the UK (info on how to identify faeces here).
- Making and setting up a mammal footprint tunnel in your garden and collecting the droppings left to send to us, along with the paper showing the footprints (click here for instructions to make your own tunnel).
- Sending photos of wild mammal plastic entrapment or teeth marks in plastic waste to the email below.
- If you are a vet or represent a UK wildlife rescue centre, you can help enormously by completing our short questionnaire; to access it please click here.
- You can also support us by donating to our appeal for equipment needed for the laboratory analyses – just click here!
What are we doing?
- We’re collecting faecal samples from rescue centres, volunteers, and citizen scientists.
- These samples are digested in the laboratory and microplastics are indentified using a microscope.
- We’re also sending questionnaires to wildlife centres focusing on plastic entanglement and gut blockages caused by plastic.
- We’re collecting photos of individual mammals entangled in plastic, and nests made of plastic.
- The species we’re focusing on are the wood mouse, bank and field voles, hedgehog, brown rat, rabbit, and shrews.
Why is this study important?
- This research has never been carried out before, so we don’t currently understand if small mammals in the UK are consuming plastics. It’s important to know, because lab studies of mice have indicated that gut biota, organs, and fertility are affected by plastic ingestion.
- Some species, like hedgehogs, are at risk of extinction. We want to know if plastic might be playing a part in this.
- Studying small mammals will help us understand effects on other species higher up the foodchain.
- It will help us understand welfare implications.
- January 2020: Project begins.
- Current status as of October 2021: Pilot study completed. Results to be published in scientific paper, COP26 interview, and press release. The project continues to run, so please get involved if you can!
Find out more in Emily’s blog here.