Mammals in the UK – A surprising truth

Posted on April 30, 2018

Natural Apptitude attended the 64th Mammal Society Conference last week.

mammal society conference 2018 - natural apptitude

Based on the stunning campus of Exeter University and with a host of excellent presentations, one particularly surprising fact emerged about the UK’s terrestrial mammals.  Despite decades of recording effort, we still know very little about our island’s mammal populations.

So, it was a timely event for us to be showcasing a new app that we have developed with the Mammal Society to help address this issue.


We now know what we don’t know

One of the key messages from the conference was we don’t actually know very much about the population sizes (and sometimes, even the distribution) of the UK’s mammals.  This is a considerable problem when it comes to working out which species are declining and most at risk.  One of the reasons for this lack of knowledge is that most mammal records are of the ad hoc variety and also tend to be rather vague (often to the extent that they are unusable).

Back in 2014 we introduced the first mammal recording app for the Mammal Society – Mammal Tracker.  Mammal Tracker was designed to use smartphone technology to generate high numbers of better quality, ad hoc records.  And with those aims in mind, it has been a major success.  So far, it has generated in excess of 42,000 records.  Whilst the records generated by Mammal Tracker are very useful, a record of 10 rabbits from a particular location tells you nothing about how long the recorder spent looking for the rabbits and how much ground they had to cover to find them.  Queue Mammal Mapper…

Mammal Mapper

Mammal Mapper is one of the newer breed of recording apps we have been working on (see also Whale Track).  What makes it special is the fact that it records both the time you spend looking for mammals and tracks the route you take.  This provides effort based data which is far more useful to assess populations.

Mammal Mapper Route - Natural Apptitude

For example, if you walk 10 miles in good quality habitat and spend 5 hours looking for mammals and yet only see 5 rabbits (or their signs) we can fairly reliably conclude that rabbits are not overly abundant in that area.

Mammal Mapper is currently in beta but should be live by mid-May 2018.  It generated a lot of interest at the conference so we have high hopes for it and for the data it will produce for conservation.  It’s already been given a field test by the BBC and will make an appearance on “Costing the Earth” in the middle of May!

Mammal Mapper Splash Screen - natural apptitude