“Really? The hen harrier?” some might query – and fairly, since it is hardly thriving. But this most hard pressed of raptors saw glimmers of hope in 2015, with an increase from three breeding pairs to six in England, and our readers have voted to celebrate this slight upturn in its fortunes. True, there is no resting on laurels, given that numbers remain so low, but public awareness of the plight of this bird of prey has increased and its welfare is now in the spotlight.
“It’s great that the hen harrier’s profile will be further enhanced by this win,” says our expert Chris Packham. “It’s a wonderful species that is in dire straits solely due to human intervention - something that is wholly unacceptable.”
Runner up: North Sea cod
Swimming at the heels of the hen harrier is the North Sea cod, just handfuls of votes behind. This widely eaten fish, whose numbers had been pushed to the brink of collapse, has been removed from the Marine Conservation Society’s Red List as the population has grown since strict controls were added in 2006. It’s encouraging evidence that conservation efforts and catch controls enable populations to recover. But although the fish has been moved onto the amber list of fish that can occasionally be eaten, the recovery is still in its early days – so please restrain from cod-gobbling for now.