Friday, 2 September 2016


Male cirl bunting - a species in recovery mode (photo: Paco Gomez via Wikimedia Commons)

A FAMILY doctor turned MP hopes she can help improve the health of Britain's tiny population of cirl buntings.

Dr Sarah Wollaston has signed up with the RSPB to "champion" a species that almost became extinct in the UK in the 1980s.

Says the Conservative MP for Totnes in Devon:   "Back in 1989, this beautiful and plucky farmland bird was on the brink  with just 120 breeding pairs left in the wild. 

Dr Wollaston - health benefits of the great outdoors
"Collaboration between various  agencies and farmers - through the  Countryside Stewardship scheme - has seen the species make a huge recovery such that the population has now reached around1,000 pairs.

"The  recovery shows what can be achieved through understanding the science behind species decline and applying practical solutions.  There is much we can learn from the work of the dedicated conservationists and farmers involved in the project.

The MP continues: "These efforts to work together are needed more than ever.  We are seeing increasing pressures on precious habitats and wild spaces across the UK. 

"All the while, report after report comes out showing the benefits of access to the natural environment for physical and mental health, particularly for children. 

"We must not lose sights of these benefits when set against the pressures for housing and infrastructure that are so desperately needed.

" I hope as the 'species champions' project progresses, there will be more inspiring stories to tell of species recovering against the odds - and many more MPs will join in taking a stand for nature."

Aged 54, the Conservative MP for Totnes in Devon was born in Woking, Surrey, and became a junior doctor, specialising in paediatrics, after qualifying at Guy's Hospital medical school.

While a medical student, she worked part-time as a healthcare assistant to help fund her studies

After five years, she moved to Brisiol to train as a GP, then moved to Devon where she worked for a practice on the edge of Dartmoor.

Between 1996 and 2001, she was also a police surgeon, dealing with victims of sexual assaults.

Dr Wollaston  is still on the medical register but she stopped practising medicine in 2010 when she was elected to Parliament.

She is married to a psychiatrist, Adrian, whom she met while studying at Guy's,  and the couple have three children - two at university and one a foundation doctor.

A keen cyclist, she and Adrian took part in the 100-mile Ride London race in 2014.

 * Another bird , the bittern, is championed by Therese Coffey, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal. After seeing huge declines, it  is now making a marked recovery in some parts of the country.

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