United Kingdom Country Profile
The United Kingdom is a collection of islands located in Western Europe between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. It comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, covering an area of 243,610 sq km. With a population of over 68 million the official language is English, but other regional languages recognised including Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Irish and Cornish.
Geography & Wildlife
Most of the UK has a temperate climate, with cool temperatures and plenty of rainfall all year round. However, some inland areas of upland England, Wales, Northern Ireland and most of Scotland experience a sub-polar oceanic climate. In general, the terrain of the UK can be described as mostly rugged hill and low mountain in the north and northwest, to lowland areas and rolling plains in the east, southeast and south.
Large mammals are not numerous in the UK, with the grey wolf and brown bear having been hunted to extinction. The largest native mammal is the red deer, with many other indigenous and non-native deer species living in the UK. Other mammals include hedgehog, shrews, bats, dormice, voles, badgers, foxes, squirrels, rabbits and hares. Various species of seal, dolphins, porpoises and orca are found seasonally on UK shores and shorelines.
Wildlife in the UK is under threat, with hundreds of species now at risk of disappearing. Climate change, urbanisation, agriculture, and pollution are some of the reasons behind the decrease in both wild animal populations and their habitats. There are hundreds of wildlife casualties in the UK each year. Animals get caught in garden netting and household rubbish, injured by strimmers and hit by cars. Their nests, burrows and earths are disturbed by human activity, often resulting in offspring being abandoned or orphaned.
Wild animals are also still exploited in captivity across the UK, kept in zoos and in private ownership – many still used in performances and for human-animal interactions. There are currently more than 300 licensed zoos in operation across the country and and nearly 4,000 dangerous wild animals are being kept privately, and legally, under licence in Great Britain under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976. This includes at least 320 wild cats, 274 primates and 508 venomous snakes.
Our work in the UK
WILDLIFE RESCUES: UK
Animals: all UK wildlife
Work: rescue & care
Born Free supports the work of wildlife rescues and wildlife hospitals in the UK to rescue, treat and rehabilitate injured, sick, and orphaned wild animals.
VETERINARY CARE OF BRITISH WILDLIFE
In July 2020 Born Free established a working group to consider the issues relating to the veterinary care of wildlife casualties. The group comprised veterinary professionals (veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses), wildlife rehabilitators, representatives of veterinary organisations, and animal welfare charities. Our aim being support vets to improve veterinary care of British wildlife.
Discover our ‘information hub’ of relevant British wildlife resources for vets across the UK.
PROTECTING AND RESTORING OUR NATURAL HERITAGE
The UK might be one of the world’s larger economies, but it is also one of the most nature-depleted countries. According to the Natural History Museum, the UK has ‘led the world’ in destroying the natural environment.
Born Free, alongside our partner organisations at Wildlife and Countryside Link, advocates for far greater ambition and resources to improve our natural heritage and the protections afforded to nature and wildlife across the UK. In 2023, we joined with our partners to launch the ‘Nature 2030’ campaign. Nature 2030 aims to persuade all political parties of the need to vastly improve nature and biodiversity if we are to meet our international commitments to halt and reverse biodiversity decline here at home, by:
- committing to secure additional public and private financing
- improving land management for the benefit of nature and wildlife
- creating more green jobs
- recognising the rights of nature and its benefits to people
Badgers are one of the UK’s iconic and best loved remaining wild mammals. They have learned to survive in close proximity to people. However, they have been persecuted for centuries in the name of sport and pest control, and tens of thousands are killed on our roads every year. In addition, from 2013 to the end of 2022, more than 210,000 badgers had been killed under licence as part of the government’s efforts to control bovine tuberculosis in cattle, and the government shows no sign of bringing the culls to a permanent end any time soon.
Born Free opposes the policy of badger culling on the grounds that it is unscientific, and that culling is ineffective, inhumane, and unnecessary.
Born Free works with partner organisations, veterinary authorities, decision-makers and the wider public to promote evidence-based wildlife management which focuses on minimising negative animal welfare and conservation impacts, and promotes alternative, humane approaches to bovine TB control that do not involve lethal wildlife interventions.
We also support the work of UK based wildlife rescue organisations and wildlife hospitals who rescue, treat, rear, and release badgers back into the wild.
CAPTIVE WILD ANIMALS
Work: wild animals in captivity
Born Free challenges the trade in and keeping of wild animals for captive use, and campaigns to keep wildlife in the wild. We do this by:
- lobbying for improved legislation and policy change
- exposing suffering and neglect
- challenging industry claims
- advocating for improvements to the welfare of animals kept in zoos and aquariums, as exotic pets, and those used for exhibition and performance
Born Free also investigates the exotic pet industry, calling for the UK Government to review and reform outdated laws on pet ownership.
EDUCATION IN THE UK
In the UK, our Education Programme aims to reach children and young people both in schools and out, instilling a love of wildlife and helping to encourage personal action to protect wildlife around the world. Our team runs free workshops and events for schools and youth groups, as well as creating a range of curriculum-linked resources, themed around wildlife and environmental issues, for primary and secondary teachers to use with their classes.
Our free activities, kids’ magazine and competitions also enable young people to learn about wildlife in engaging and creative ways. We aim teach young people that their local actions often have global consequences, and that we can all make positive changes in our lives to make a big difference for wildlife.