This Sunday [1 April 2018] wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is reintroducing a number of unicorns (Equus monoceros) into a nature reserve on the Isle of Wight, as part of their ongoing conservation efforts to reintroduce endangered species back to the UK.
Once a common sight in early Britain, unicorns lived in all corners of the land and were a much-loved species due to both their beauty and mystical qualities. In the early 16th century however, unicorns were hunted to near-extinction as it was believed their horns held magical powers – indeed Henry VIII hunted them on his Hampton Court Estate, as he thought they would help him father the male heir he so desired.
Now, PTES plans to help bring unicorns back to Britain by reintroducing 20 breeding pairs into Briddlesford Wood on the Isle of Wight – a magical woodland which is already home to endangered red squirrels and hazel dormice.
Ursula Whitehorn, Unicorn Reintroduction Officer at PTES said: “Briddlesford is an ancient woodland that PTES has been managing for over a quarter of a century. The unicorns will fit in perfectly alongside the hazel dormice, red squirrels and Bechstein’s bats that have already made it their home, and we are very proud to be spear-heading this vital reintroduction of an ancient, iconic British species.”
Aside from the one-of-a-kind unicorn reintroduction, PTES works to protect endangered species both in the UK and internationally, and as part of their ongoing conservation work has reintroduced many iconic species back to their former, and natural, habitats including:
- Hazel dormice: PTES manages the nationwide dormouse monitoring scheme – the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme – which has been running for nearly 25 years. Each year, PTES leads the reintroduction of rare hazel dormice into specially selected woodland habitats across the UK. To date, PTES and partners have reintroduced over 900 dormice across 12 English counties. This June, PTES will reintroduce dormice into part of Warwickshire.
- Red squirrels: In 2016/17, PTES supported a team which released 55 red squirrels to ten woodland sites in the north-west Highlands, in areas safe from grey squirrels. Today, Scotland is the species’ best stronghold, being home to around 121,000 red squirrels.
- Pine martens: In autumn 2015, PTES funded partners who successfully relocated 20 pine martens from Scotland to mid-Wales. With the birth of several kits already, our first milestone has been achieved.
- Beavers: As co-funders of the Scottish Beaver Trial, PTES and partners produced a feasibility study on the reintroduction of beavers to Knapdale, Scotland. 400 years after the species was hunted to extinction in the UK, the project was a success and Scotland welcomed back 16 beavers in May 2009.
To find out more about PTES’ unicorn reintroduction taking place this Sunday 1 April 2018, visit www.ptes.org/unicorns.