The Mammal Society, with support from Waitrose & Partners’ Golden Jubilee Trust scheme and the University of Sussex, have launched a new 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 analysing the droppings of some of our most widespread species — mice, voles, shrews, rabbits and hedgehogs — we will find out the extent to which plastics are eaten. We will also assess the health threats posed by different types of plastic, through both ingestion and entrapment.
Why is our focus on small mammals?
- Small mammals are a good indication of the health of our ecosystems.
- Hedgehogs, and many small rodents, are in severe decline.
- They are vital prey for a wide variety of species including foxes, weasels, barn owls, and kestrels.
- As some of the most likely species to chew litter, they create tiny plastic fragments that can enter soils, waterways and the sea.
- Plastics in small mammals means plastics in their predators – ranging from owls to pet cats.
How will we find out if they are eating plastic?
Droppings of small mammals are digested in the laboratory and any micro plastics are identified under a microscope. You can find out more in Emily’s blog here.
How you can 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:
- getting in touch and sending us small mammal droppings you spot (info on how to spot which species 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
- DONATING to our appeal for equipment needed for the laboratory analyses, just click here.