NGC and the Tracking Mammals Partnership

The NGC is of considerable interest to the statutory agencies charged by the UK and devolved governments with monitoring the status of wildlife, particularly with respect to mammals that are difficult to monitor by other means. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is responsible for assessing and reporting on the state of UK biodiversity on behalf of these agencies. In 2003, it set up the Tracking Mammals Partnership, which now comprises 25 organisations. The Partnership aims to detect changes in the abundance and distribution of terrestrial and freshwater mammals, to act as an early warning system for species of conservation interest and for pest or problem species.

JNCC officially recognized the importance of the NGC as a monitoring tool for wildlife management and conservation by inviting the Trust to join the Tracking Mammals Partnership at its inception. The NGC feeds into the surveillance and monitoring programme of the Partnership. Crucially, the agreement between Trust and JNCC guarantees data confidentiality: the Trust retains sole access to NGC returns, individual shoot records are never divulged, and NGC contributions are always presented in an anonymous aggregated format. The agreement seeks to improve data collection, collation and analysis, and in particular to provide annual updates on national trends in bags.

The first step under the agreement was a pilot study in 2003 to assess the value of the NGC as a mammal monitoring scheme. The study explored issues such as geographical coverage, representativeness, data collection bias, estate turnover, sampling effort and alert potential. The study report concluded that the NGC represents a valuable tool for monitoring national and regional mammal populations, with good coverage, good power to detect trends and good concordance with other sources of information. Since then, the Trust has submitted five annual reports to JNCC that summarise the trends in bags for the whole of the UK, for England, Scotland and Wales, for government regions and for environmental zones.

In 2011, instead of requesting another written report, JNCC commissioned the GWCT to develop a series of web pages for the 20 mammals covered by the NGC. The aim was to increase accessibility of the information on NGC trends, to summarise current status and legislation, and to provide links to other relevant information sources.

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