How to Help Wildlife

The following list of 12 Ways You Can Help Wildlife was collated by Artist, Jane Lee McCracken, founder of Where Did All the Animals Go? (WDATAG) art and environmental education project in partnership with international wildlife charity Born Free. It is available to download as a free resource here:


The list was initially available as a free handout at Where Did All the Animals Go? exhibition and the Endangered Species Conference, 2019 which Jane curated and organised at Thought Foundation Gallery, UK and contains contributions from Jane, Will Travers OBE, President and Co-Founder Born Free, Dr Melvin Gumal, Director WCS Malaysia, PC Peter Baker, Wildlife Crime Officer, Northumbria Police, Laura Gosset, Head of Education and David Bolton, Education Officer, Born Free Foundation.

The list has been created in response to the fact that humanity needs wildlife in order to survive. The release of the United Nations IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) survey findings on 6 May 2019 states that over one million species are now under threat of extinction. There is hope for vulnerable wildlife if we act now.

Image credits above left to right: Jane Lee McCracken with Elisha Yr 6 Jarrow Cross Primary School selling posters featuring drawings created by children of Jarrow Cross in Jane’s Orangutan Drawing Workshop, to fundraise for the orangutans of Sarawak; Bengal tiger ©; scabious growing in Jane’s garden


Image credit: ©Jane Lee McCracken, Lily in Jane’s wildlife garden

1. LOOK after your own back yard! Looking after local environments can help biodiversity flourish, no matter where we live. Providing feeding stations for pollinators such as bees, by planting native pollinator-friendly plants in your garden, plant pots or window boxes can help increase their chances of survival. Pollinators are essential to the plant reproduction of one third of the world’s food production, yet pollinator populations are decreasing at an alarming rate. Even coffee, potatoes, chocolate and cotton are reliant on insect pollination. If you don’t have access to a garden or yard, join a local group that encourages pollinator planting of urban areas or write to your local council to encourage native wildflower planting on roundabouts, roadsides and in parks. DON’T use pesticides as they kill pollinators and insects which other wildlife are dependent on. 

Image credit: ©Jane Lee McCracken; Cleadon Hills, South Tyneside

2. GO OUT and walk amongst nature in your local area. “Walk in forests, in peat bogs, in nature somewhere. Breathe in nature’s wonders and touch the clear waters that filter the air that we breathe. Many of us have lost sight of nature, thinking it comes in a box. It is tangible. It is just that we have forgotten how much of life nature gives us, which we take for granted. Nature is central to all our lives.” Dr Melvin Gumal, Director WCS Malaysia

Image credit: ©Jane Lee McCracken; Rosie age 6, attendee at Jane’s Northumbrian Wildlife Drawing Workshop, Robinson-Gay, Hexham, with her drawing of a red fox

3. REDUCE CONSUMPTION. Humans are mainly responsible for the destruction of the natural world through overpopulation and overconsumption. It’s often challenging to change the way we live and avoid things we have grown reliant upon but small adjustments in life choices such as not buying so many items we don’t need can lead to big positive impacts in the use of land and curbing habitat destruction, one of the biggest threats to the natural world. Becoming less materialistic means asking yourself if you really need something or if you can get by without it. Giving gifts of pre-loved objects, family heirlooms or sustainable things you’ve created yourself, to friends and family is more meaningful than encouraging more plastic items to be manufactured.

Image credit: ©Jane Lee McCracken; plastic washed up on Sandhaven Beach, South Shields

4. RECYCLE paper and other recyclables as much as possible. Use LESS water and energy. Simple changes like turning off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth, having showers instead of baths, making sure lights, chargers and electronics on standby are switched off when not being used reduces energy consumption. Not using your washing machine on a daily basis and washing at 30° also helps to reduce consumption and bills. WALK more, drive less. Making fewer car journeys is key to reducing the effects of the climate emergency. Encourage friends and family to make fewer car journeys. Try not to buy as many things made of plastic including single-use plastics such as straws, plastic bags, food packaging and water or juice bottles. Dropping litter also adds to pollution and can kill both wildlife and domestic animals.

Image credit: ©Jane Lee McCracken; Orangutan 2019 poster designed by Jane, featuring drawings by children of Jarrow Cross Primary School created in Orangutan Drawing Workshop

5. CHOOSE products that are sustainably and ethically sourced. Look for special labels on the packaging, such as Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance Certified or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Try to avoid buying products containing unsustainable palm oil, as it is one of the greatest threats to rainforests and species like orangutans. Palm oil is in a lot of food products such as biscuits, chocolate and cosmetics – you can check labels when you’re shopping. Write to supermarkets urging them to ban products with unsustainable palm oil, using less plastic packaging and providing in-store recycle bins for depositing card packaging before you leave the store.

Image credit: ©Jane Lee McCracken - Jane with Elisha Yr 6 Jarrow Cross Primary School selling posters, featuring children's drawings created in her Orangutan Drawing Workshop, at Jarrow Cross Summer Fete 2019, to raise funds for the Orangutans of Sarawak. Elisha also created the slogan “Save Animals Live Better!”

6. CHANGE your priorities. The climate emergency and wildlife extinctions are a fact. Human reliance on nature for our own survival is a fact. The findings of the UN IPBES report affect every one of us. The responsibility of what our species has created comes down to all of us. It is NOT the responsibility of scientists and conservationists alone to mop up our collective mess. If we want our planet and humanity to survive, collective responsibility has to be taken across society.

Image credit: ©Jane Lee McCracken; Malakai of Boys and Girls Club of Laguna Beach, California with his drawing of a Puma, created in Jane’s California Wildlife Drawing Workshop

7. TELL others about what you have learnt from the exhibition and conference, why wildlife is threatened, why we need wildlife and what we can do to help wildlife. Education is the key to change. LEARN more about endangered species by watching nature programmes. Word of mouth has been an effective tool of learning for humans over millennia, helping create the contemporary society we live in. Social media is also an effective way of spreading the word. FOLLOW reputable wildlife conservation organisations and re-post their posts about vulnerable wildlife, voicing your own concerns. Becoming a member of conservation organisations such as Born Free Foundation also affirms your support and concerns for wildlife to those around you.

 Image credit: ©Jane Lee McCracken; Rhino 2014 Biro drawing (detail) Jane Lee McCracken. Rhino features drawing layers of some of the most hunted animals on the planet including rhinoceros, African elephants, sharks, manta ray and pangolin. This drawing was auctioned to raise funds for Chengeta Wildlife.

8. CONTACT your local MP or politician and voice your concerns about the climate emergency, the result of the UN IPBES survey findings and the illegal wildlife trade such as the ivory trade and wildlife trafficking. Ask them to raise these issues in parliament. If more of us openly show concern for the environment global governments are more likely to make positive changes. Here is a link with helpful information about how to contact your MP in the UK 

9. TAKE ACTION by signing wildlife and nature-related petitions on reputable sites such as and A petition can be effective and successful in changing legislation. 

10. REPORT wildlife crime. Wildlife crime encompasses many types of crimes. Crimes such as hare coursing, lamping, badger baiting and the poisoning of wildlife such as birds of prey continue locally while wildlife trafficking of endangered species for the pet trade or species body parts for the use in traditional medicines and for decoration continue nationally and globally. If you witness a crime in action against wildlife in this country dial 999 to report it to the police. For all other wildlife crime enquiries dial 101. If you are abroad, either contact the local authorities or the embassy of your home country. You can also contact a conservation organisation involved in the conservation of particular species for advice as to what to do. Conservation organisations often rely on tourists to relay information about wildlife crimes across the world. “People tend to ignore wildlife crime thinking the police won’t do anything but people who commit wildlife crime are often involved in other types of crime so we must report crimes against wildlife.” PC Peter Baker, Northumbria Police Wildlife Crime Unit

11. Think about the INDIVIDUALS; “individual animals, individual species, habitats and ecosystems and the need for their support and protection. Each individual in a population matters, each with its own desires and needs and a capacity to suffer. Compassionate conservation policies and practices should fully take into account the welfare of individuals in efforts to secure the long term future of species and their habitats.” Laura Gosset, Head of Education and David Bolton Education Officer, Born Free Foundation

Image credit: ©

12. ADOPT an animal! “Choose from an elephant to an Ethiopian wolf and support the care of individual wild animals or their families around the Will Travers OBE, President and Co-Founder Born Free. Image courtesy of Born Free  


The following article and plant list have been created by Suzanne Stanley of Plant Heritage North East as a contribution to the 12 Ways You Can Help Wildlife and Where Did All the Animals Go? project:

Gardens and public spaces can be great for wildlife – the insects, birds, small mammals and amphibians that all depend on one another, and on which we depend – as long as there is a variety of plants, places to hide and hunt, and ideally some water. Though the aim of Plant Heritage is to conserve valuable varieties of garden plants, we’re aware that the more British native plants you also have in your garden, the more beneficial to wildlife it will be. So if you have a grassy area, dare to be untidy; let some of it grow so that daisies, buttercups, clover - and who knows what else? – can flourish and supply nectar for insects, who in turn act as pollinators for our benefit and are also food for birds and small mammals. Don’t deadhead everything – let some seed heads mature for the birds to feed on, and leave some nice cluttered corners, full of dead leaves, twigs and stones as hidey holes or hunting grounds for a range of small creatures.

Buttercups, Herb Robert and grass growing in set aside wild area Photo credit: Jane Lee McCracken

Here are 12 plants, easy to grow and inexpensive to buy in garden centres and even supermarkets – together this mix of annuals and perennials should keep you in flowers from late February / March until early November. Beware double-flowered varieties – they can look pretty, but insects can’t get at the vital parts for nectar and pollination.

Early flowerers, February / March till May

1. Christmas or Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis): Lovely cup-shaped flowers on leafy plants that are happy in shade and sun.

2. Grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum): These little bulbs will form bigger clumps year on year.

3. Borage (Borago officinalis): An annual plant, but it readily self-seeds, and unwanted seedlings are easy to remove. Beautiful blue flowers. A good alternative is Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

4. Honesty (Lunaria annua): Biennial (seedlings flower in their 2nd year), but once established it readily self-seeds for an annual succession of flowers.

Borage, self seeds easily, year after year Photo credit: Jane Lee McCracken

Midsummer: May – August

5. Yarrow (Achillea varieties): The native form is white, but coloured varieties are just as attractive to insects with their flat landing stages of flowers. Leave some seedheads for birds.

6. Geranium species: not the scarlet-flowered felty-leaf Pelargoniums, but our native Cranesbill, G. pratense, and related species; there’s a size and colour for every garden.

7. Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea): Add height to your planting; big tubular flowers that bees climb into.

8. Scabious (Scabiosa columbaria and S. caucasica) Nectar-rich pincushions mostly in shades of soft lavender, blue, lilac or creamy white.

9. Marjoram (Origanum vulgare) or Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) are both covered in tiny nectar-rich flowers and love full sun and well-drained soil in borders or pots.

10. Globethistle (Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’ is a smaller variety): blue balls on straight stems, and happy in poor soils, Echinops is loved by bees and butterflies.

Scabious growing in a pot; plants listed can be grown in pots if you don't have a garden. Photo credit: Jane Lee McCracken

Late summer: August / September and beyond

11. Michaelmas daisies (known as Asters but now officially mostly called Symphyotrichum): buy different shades and heights to suit your planting space to flower from late summer to late autumn.

12. Ice plant (Known as Sedum spectabile but now officially Hylotelephium spectabile)wonderfully fleshy leaves and flat clusters of long-lasting bright pink flowers. Leave seedheads overwinter.

If you have room for a shrub, purple Buddleia (the Butterfly Bushis a great option, particularly as every spring you can cut it back hard, which means you can control its size. Buddleia globosa with its golden honey-scented spherical flowers self-seeds less prolifically, but all seedlings are easy to remove when young. If you can accommodate a small tree, go for a native Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) which supports over 90 species of insect, or a native Wild Cherry (Prunus avium); Japanese flowering cherries in comparison support very little wildlife. And remember to check that plants have been grown in the UK to minimise the spread of devastating plant diseases.

After that, add whatever other annuals and perennials you fancy! Fill all the gaps for a mass of colour for you, and ground cover, perching places, hidey-holes and food for wildlife. 

Suzanne Stanley
Plant Heritage North East 
Plant Heritage (Charity nos. 1004009 / SC041785) “Plant Heritage seeks to conserve, document, promote and make available Britain and Ireland’s rich diversity of garden plants for the benefit of everyone through horticulture, education and science.”


Planting trees, wildlife-friendly plants and letting indigenous weeds grow are the simplest and most natural ways to help combat the climate crisis and Dave Goulson’s illuminating book The Garden Jungle explains how to make a truly wild space. In his quest to inspire a network of nature reserves across the UK through gardens, yards, plant pots and window boxes and public spaces, he demonstrates that no matter where we live, we can get involved in helping biodiversity thrive.