The Maxwell Knight Memorial Fund (1968) A Letter To The Editor…


The World Is Not Enough According To WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016 (in fact, we require the ‘biocapacity equivalent of 1.6 Earths’)

There’s a real-life international power struggle and the antagonist is man ‘demanding more from the planet than it can renew,’ reports WWF in the Living Planet Report 2016

‘Since the early 1970s, humanity has been demanding more from the planet than it can renew (see below). By 2012,’ writes WWF in the Living Planet Report (LPR), ‘the biocapacity equivalent of 1.6 Earths was needed to provide the natural resources and services humanity consumed in that year (Global Footprint Network, 2016). Exceeding the Earth’s biocapacity is possible only in the short term. Only for a brief period can we cut trees faster than they mature, harvest more fish than the oceans can replenish, or emit more carbon into the atmosphere than the forests and oceans can absorb. The consequences of “overshoot” are already clear: habitat and species loss, and accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere (Tittensor et al., 2014; UNEP, 2012).’

Global Ecological Footprint by component vs Earth’s biocapacity, 1961-2012:

Carbon is the dominant component of humanity’s Ecological Footprint (ranging from 43 per cent in 1961 to 60 per cent in 2012). It is the largest Footprint component at the global level as well as for 145 of the 233 countries and territories tracked in 2012. Its primary cause has been the burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas. The green line represents the Earth’s capacity to produce resources and ecological services (i.e., the biocapacity). It has been upward trending slightly, mainly due to increased productivities in agriculture (Global Footprint Network, 2016). Data are given in global hectares (gha).

Source: WWF. 2016. Living Planet Report 2016. Risk and resilience in a new era. WWF International, Gland, Switzerland.

Read more about WWF’s conservation work or donate here


Gorilla Pathology and Health, 1st Edition

John E Cooper is a member of a husband and wife team, from the United Kingdom. He and his wife Margaret (a lawyer, who is a contributor to this book and the forthcoming natural history book about Maxwell Knight) travel widely and lecture together in many countries. They have spent nearly twenty years living overseas, mainly in Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. They worked with mountain gorillas in Rwanda from 1993-95 and continue to study the diseases of these and other primates. The Coopers are now based in Britain, where they have visiting academic commitments, but they continue their voluntary work with wildlife, domesticated animals angorilla-pathology-and-health-1st-editiond rural communities in East Africa.

Gordon Hull is an amateur naturalist with a keen interest in primates. He has specialised in the study of gorillas over many years, during which time he has amassed a great deal of technical and historical information about specimens in zoos, museums, and other institutions throughout the world.  Although unaffiliated, he has been, and remains, an assiduous and effective researcher, able to elicit excellent responses and co-operation from professional scientists and lay persons alike.  Gordon is a member of the Gorilla Pathology Study Group (GPSG) and was a co-author with John E Cooper and Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka of the paper “Diseases and Pathology of the Genus Gorilla: The Need for a Database of Material and Resources”, presented in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013, that set the scene for this publication.

This work is to be published in late 2016 by Academic Press Elsevier- see ISBN: 9780128020395 Gorilla Pathology and Health. A combination of book and catalogue that contains extensive information on the pathology, health, welfare, and conservation of gorillas. It:

  • Brings together studies, data, and clinical practice from difficult-to-access or obscure journals and NGO reports, in different languages, for all interested parties and practitioners.
  • Provides perspectives on existing research in gorilla pathology and health, both for those studying conservation and welfare practices and those seeking a greater understanding of comparable diseases in humans
  • Includes illustrative figures of gross and microscopic pathological changes, museum specimens, photos of field necropsy and techniques, and examples of laboratory tests
  • Features an extensive list of references and further reading, in different languages
  • Incorporates a comprehensive, descriptive catalogue of gorilla material from around the world.

With a Foreword by Louise Leakey and Emmanuel de Merode and contributions by Margaret E. Cooper, Ian Redmond, Paul Budgen, Martyn Cooke, Allen Goodship, Jane Hopper, Jenny Jaffe, Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Sophia Keen, Brian N. Livingstone, Keith Maybury, Dermot McInerney, Roberto P. Miguez, Jaimie Morris, Ogeto Mwebi, Geoffrey Pearson, Carina Phillips, Celsus Sente, Paolo Viscardi and others.

Did you know that Maxwell Knight wrote a (tongue in cheek) book about keeping a gorilla?

Did you know Maxwell Knight?


If you knew Maxwell Knight or have been influenced by him please share your story with us (it will not appear on this blog (or in the book) without your approval).

Are butterflies slipping through our fingers?

The results for this year’s Big Butterfly Count are in and conservationists are already ‘scratching their heads,’ reports Butterfly Conservation. Over 38,000 counts were apparently completed and an almost unbelievable 396,138 butterflies were counted and – despite favourable weather conditions – 2016 will be a year where ‘common species saw their numbers collapse over summer.’

‘Gatekeeper, Comma and Small Copper butterflies experienced their worst year in the project’s history, with sightings down 40%, 46% and 30% respectively compared to last year. The Small Tortoiseshell saw a 47% drop in numbers and Peacock slumped by 42% with both species recording their second worst years,’ declares Butterfly Conservation in an email sent today to its supporters.

One regular contributor to the count stated that he did not count this year as he’d ‘hardly any sightings.’

The State of Nature report published in September reported that one in ten UK species is now threatened with extinction and the Big Butterfly Count is further supporting evidence that butterflies may be slipping away from the UK.

Maxwell Knight would have been very disappointed in this news as I’m sure many others are. The question is, what can be done about it?

We can support Butterfly Conservation by donating to their conservation work: ‘£1 today could be worth £10 towards crucial conservation,’ they claim and that sounds like a canny investment in wildlife to me.

Click here to read the big butterfly count 2016 results.

It hasn’t all been bad news, though: seven species were recorded in larger numbers and the Red Admiral’s numbers are up by 70%.

Our wildlife is in ‘crisis’ – ‘56% of UK species are in decline’ and ‘165 species are considered Critically Endangered in Great Britain’

Our wildlife is in ‘crisis’ according to a new report launched this month entitled the State of Nature, which brings together data and expertise from over 50 organisations (including BTO, RSPB, WWF, ZSL, National Trust, Woodland Trust, Butterfly Conservation et al).
Britain’s wildlife is in ‘crisis’ as ‘56% of UK species are in decline’ and ‘165 species are considered Critically Endangered in Great Britain’ – these, according to the report, are the ‘most likely’ species to go extinct and some of the hardest hit are well-known and popular, such as hedgehogs and turtle doves.

Sir David Attenborough, writing in a foreword to the report, sets the scene: ‘Escalating pressures, such as climate change and modern land management, mean that we continue to lose the precious wildlife that enriches our lives and is essential to the health and well-being of those who live in the UK. Our wonderful nature is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before.’

The State of Nature report pools the data, expertise and local knowledge from more than 50 nature conservation and research organisations and is a beneficiary of much of the 7,500,000 volunteer hours that go into monitoring the UK’s nature every year.

‘Volunteers monitored over 9,670 species from birds to butterflies, plants to pondlife, spiders to snails,’ reports the BTO. The cutting edge overview also covers UKs seas, British Antarctic and British Indian Ocean Territories and other Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.

What’s different about this news is that the species in decline are here in the UK – they’re not in Africa or Asia. They’re in our gardens. (Or not in our gardens as the case may eventually, and sadly, be). With regret, we’re used to reading about the grim outlook for elephants (and other wonderful beasts) and there’s little or no doubt that the illegal trade in ivory is partly responsible for their plummeting numbers; however, there are other reasons for their demise such as the loss of habitat and the way land is managed. Our native wildlife may not suffer the oppression of illegal hunting but it does share the common ground of the two most important factors that affect the state of nature here in the UK, and elsewhere overseas, these being agriculture and climate change.

Corn Field
With around 75% of the UK in the hands of intensive food production, the impact of agriculture on wildlife and the potential for its impact on species populations is there for all to see. There are wildlife-friendly farming schemes out there, to encourage the conservation of wildlife including farmland birds. However, if the 7,500,000 volunteer hours are anything to go by, it would seem that farmers need more scientific assistance, measurement and support to give them the resources to put the necessary improvements in place which are capable of achieving the giant improvements required today.

The NFU’s response to the State of Nature Report is mixed. NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: ‘As the report acknowledges, agricultural policies of the past did focus on maximising food production resulting in the intensification of farming in the years after World War II. However, since the early 1990s, in terms of inputs and in terms of numbers of livestock and area of crops grown British agriculture has not intensified – in fact, it’s the reverse.’ Mr Smith was quick to point out that there are other causes cited in the report, ‘such as urbanisation, climate change or increasing predator pressure need greater attention.’

Climate change is perplexing and the way to tackle it divides the greatest of minds.

Urbanisation – on the other hand – is much more tangible and therefore easier to grasp. We continue to unsympathetically encroach on nature until it’s forced to retreat beyond its usual acceptable limits of geography and therefore has no choice but to look elsewhere for food, shelter and a place to breed. Some may go on to thrive, others won’t.

It’s pleasing to see how many partnerships are behind the report. I sometimes feel that one or two wildlife charities – who shall remain nameless – try to own the nation’s nature. And that’s why I’m pleased that this is open source (available to all) as wildlife is ‘free living’ and our aim should be to protect its right to roam.

It can only be good that so many wildlife charities are pooling their resources as the last headline any nature lover wants to read is that ‘Nature is faring worse in the UK than in most other countries.’ In point of fact, it’s ranked 189 out of 218 countries on the ‘Biodiversity Intactness Index.’ I’m not entirely sure what that is, but I don’t think it’s good!

By Simon H King
PS. Start helping nature by feeding the wild birds today.

The State of Nature 2016: One in 10 UK wildlife species faces extinction


Over 50 wildlife organisations have compiled a stock take (The State of Nature Report) of all our native wildlife and it reveals that more than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

In Scotland, one in every 11 species assessed is at risk of becoming extinct (9%) and for some groups of species that threat is even higher.  For example, 18% of butterflies, 15% of dragonflies and 13% of plants are officially classified as being at risk of extinction. Across the UK as a whole, over one in ten species assessed are under threat of disappearing altogether (13%) and 2% have already become extinct.

The State of Nature 2016 UK report will be launched by Sir David Attenborough in London today (Wednesday, September 14), while separate events are being held to launch the Scottish, Welsh and Irish versions of the report in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast respectively over the coming week.

Sir David Attenborough said: “The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before. The rallying call issued after the State of Nature report in 2013 has promoted exciting and innovative conservation projects. Landscapes are being restored, special places defended, struggling species being saved and brought back. But we need to build significantly on this progress if we are to provide a bright future for nature and for people. The future of nature is under threat and we must work together; governments, conservationists, businesses and individuals, to help it. Millions of people care very passionately about nature and the environment and I believe that we can work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife.”

Mark Eaton, one of the lead authors on the report, said: “Never before have we known this much about the state of nature in Scotland and the threats it is facing. The partnership and many landowners are using the knowledge we’re gathering to underpin some amazing scientific and conservation work. But more is needed to put nature back where it belongs – we must continue to work to help restore our land and sea for wildlife. There is a real opportunity for the Scottish and UK Governments to build on these efforts and deliver the significant investment and ambitious action needed to bring nature back from the brink. Of course, this report wouldn’t have been possible without the army of dedicated volunteers who brave all conditions to survey Scotland’s wildlife. Knowledge is the most essential tool that a conservationist can have, and without their efforts, our knowledge would be significantly poorer.”

For full copies of the Scottish and UK wide State of Nature 2016 reports, and to find out how you can do your bit to save wildlife visit

The State of Nature 2016 UK partnership includes: A Focus on Nature, A Rocha UK, Association of Local Environmental Records Centres, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, Bat Conservation Trust, Biological Records Centre, Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland, British Bryological Society, British Dragonfly Society,British Lichen Society, British Pteridological Society, British Trust for Ornithology, Buglife Scotland, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management, Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Earthwatch Institute, Freshwater Habitats Trusts, Froglife Scotland, Fungus Conservation Trust, iSpotnature (The Open University), John Muir Trust, Mammal Society,Marine Biological Association, Marine Conservation Society, MARINElife, Marine Ecosystem Research Programme, National Trust for Scotland, National Biodiversity Network, National Forum for Biological Recording, Natural History Museum, Orca, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Plantlife, PREDICTS, Rothamsted Research, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Badgers, Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, Shark Trust, Sheffield University, Vincent Wildlife Trust, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, The Scottish Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust Scotland, World Wildlife Fund, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Zoological Society of London.

“Is there to be no room for the Arts?”

“This is the age of science”, is the cry from ministries and other authorities, and it is true that science must play a large part in the lives of our future citizens. But do we truly want or need a nation of scientists where each person can claim that he or she has attained some sort of recognition of one or other kind of scientific achievement? Is there to be no room for the Arts; is there to be no effort to instil into those still young enough to learn, that a robot society which neither knows nor cares about lovely things or natural beauties or plants or animals will be a dry as dust existence as arid as any desert.”

Maxwell Knight – Chapter I of (the unpublished) Frightened Face of Nature (1964).

See also: Richard Attenborough’s ‘The arts are not a luxury’ speech

Education: “It is the uninitiated that matter…

…They are the majority, and until more of them are made conservation conscious all or efforts will be wasted.” – Maxwell Knight (The Frightened Face of Nature – unpublished – Chapter XV).

“Laws, rules and regulations will not themselves solve the problems of the future of wildlife,” wrote Knight in 1964 “It is only by education that anything will be achieved, and it is the younger generations that one should have in mind though a little education in its true sense will not be wasted on those of riper years.”

Here is a project documenting “Young people’s vision for the natural world in 2050” and it’s interesting that The Frightened Face of Nature contains many of Maxwell Knight’s prescient observations for 2000 and beyond and was written in 1964.



The beginning of something great? “Young people urge UK politicians to help safeguard nature”

“Young people” hit the headlines this week for all the right reasons – to share their 2050 vision for nature (#VisionforNature). Let us applaud these nature-protecting protagonists for making themselves heard above the daily noise of grumpy adults.

They have spoken.

Now, we must listen…

…to what’s in the report written by the A Focus on Nature group.

Maxwell Knight would – of course – be gratified.

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