The Earthwatch Balloon Debate at the Natural History Museum.
Thursday 14Th October 2004
Can you imagine a Britain 135,000 years ago when the Woolly Mammoth roamed the countryside, or picture the River Thames 500 years ago when beavers were busily building their dams?
In Britain today, there are very few places undisturbed by human activity, and as a result, much of our wildlife is now either endangered or extinct. This year the 2004 Earthwatch Balloon Debate will tackle the thorny issue of reintroducing species into the wild that have become extinct within the United Kingdom.
We invite you to come along to the Natural History Museum on October 14th to listen to five distinguished speakers who will put forward an argument for a species of their choice, and consider the ecological, economic and cultural issues involved.
The speakers will be battling for a fictional grant, but in recognition of the real achievements in the field of science. The debate promises to provide a fascinating insight into the policy and practice of this controversial area of biodiversity conservation.
Taking on the role of the decision maker, the audience will face the difficult task of choosing which species should become a priority for reintroduction. So, which species will you save, and where will you cast your vote?
Would you bring back the Beaver, eliminated by over hunting and extinct in Britain by the sixteenth century? ‘The Beaver is a crucial component for healthy functioning wetlands and riparian woodlands, their reintroduction would bring environmental benefits to local communities through the creation of small wetland areas, which would enhance biodiversity,' says speaker Bryony Coles, Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Exeter.
Perhaps you would like the British countryside to be ringing with the song of the field cricket this summer. Paul Pearce Kelly, Curator of Invertebrates at The Zoological Society of London reminds us that they are ‘now an extremely rare sound in Britain due to loss of habitat in the south of England'.
You might be persuaded by the thought of the 'quacking' pool frog that was misidentified as the Edible Frog until the 1980's. ‘As a neglected species, their numbers fell dramatically and the pool frog became extinct in the early 1990's. Only a single male has been bred in captivity, and he died in 1999. It is now time to bring this species home and implement their recovery,' argues Dr Tony Gent, the Chief Executive from the Herpetological Conservation Society.
If the evening scent and beauty of the extinct Orchid Summer Ladies Tresses appeals to you, then maybe your vote would be best placed here? ‘Reminiscent of long braided hair it has been extinct in the UK since 1959. Using seeds and the technology, we should bring back this species after 50 years of absence.' says Margaret Ramsay from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
For a bit more excitement, why not bring back the Woolly Mammoth? Imagine passing by an 11 foot giant on a Sunday afternoon, with dense brown hair, long curved tusks, a fatty hump, a long trunk and small ears - not quite your Cocker Spaniel in the park!
Palaeontologist Andy Currant will try to persuade you to ‘bring back this much missed friend, whose dung will provide a reliable alternative for peat-based fertilizer and whose bones and skin will supply multipurpose building and insulation materials.'
Seats are free to all by ticket only, and an optional buffet supper will follow. For tickets and more details please call +44 (0)1865 318856 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.