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Top ten WILD highlights from Harry Potter

Posted: Friday 27th October 2017 by TheWildlifeTrustsBlogger

(c) Jon Hawkins

Anyone who has read Harry Potter (and who hasn’t?) knows that there are some really WILD moments, creatures and ideas in every book. Wildlife and wild places play a role in the life of every witch, wizard, squib and muggle. We’ve pulled together our top ten wild highlights from the world of magic, to show you just how MAGICAL nature can really be…

10. Hogwarts Houses

Hufflepuffs are represented by the badger: loyal, hardworking, patient and fair. Fantastic diggers, badgers are sociable and live underground in family groups. Courageous Gryffindors are characterised by the lion. Rare Scottish wildcats are the only big cat found in the UK. Early Scottish settlers told legends about wildcats so fierce they bested human champions, and worshipped them as forest spirits. The eagle symbolises intelligent and witty Ravenclaws. The golden eagle is a huge bird of prey found in Scotland, which has superb hunting prowess. Snakes are the embodiment of the cunning Slytherins. Britain has three species of snake; the adder, the grass snake, and the rare smooth snake.

(c) Jon Hawkins

9. Nifflers

The niffler is a curious creature, with a huge storage pouch and a knack for hunting out treasure. Our very own niffler, the European Mole, may not be a treasure-hunter but it certainly has its own stash of slimy goodies to keep it alive. Moles have to eat their own bodyweight in food every day, much of it earthworms. What do they do in the winter, when the ground is frozen, and digging is hard work? Well, in autumn moles collect and store worms alive. They make sure they can’t slither off by biting off their head segment, leaving them alive and fresh but unable to move. Gross! 

(c) Amy Lewis

8. Flesh-eating Slugs

Flesh-eating slugs truly are a terrifying thought (remember the boggart that turned into one for a student?). These may not exist in the non-magical world… but slug-eating slugs certainly do! The leopard slug is a voracious eater, and not too fussy either. Rather than munching on live plants, they set their sights on rotting plants, but also hunt down fellow slugs. You might even find this awesome slug in your own garden. There are around 40 species of slugs in the UK with some pretty awesome names, including the ear shelled slug and the great red slug (pictured).

(c) Malcolm Storey

7. Snakes

Snakes play a pivotal role in Harry Potter, from the constrictor that Harry unwittingly unleashes on his cousin, to Lord Voldemort’s faithful serpent, Nagini. Time and time again, Harry’s uncanny ability to talk to snakes helps save the day, but in reality would they even hear his Parseltongue? Although snakes have many excellent senses, hearing isn’t one of them – they don’t even have an external ear! But they still have an inner ear, connected to the jawbone, that’s sensitive to vibrations. Amazingly, snakes do respond to some airborne sounds, and it’s thought to be caused by vibrations from the air being transferred to the snake’s skeleton.

(c) Jamie Hall

6. Wands

“The wand chooses the wizard, Mr Potter” says Mr Ollivander, world-famous wandmaker. Every wand is unique and made from a combination of magical ingredients, like dragon heartstring, and wood, from trees like elder, rowan, holly or hawthorn. Lots of trees found in the UK reputedly have magical properties and appear in ancient mythology. In Norse legend, the first man was carved from an ash tree, whilst the first woman was carved from rowan. Holly is supposed to have protective qualities, and it used to be taboo to cut down the whole tree. You don’t have to be a wizard to get the magical properties from trees: autumn is the perfect time of year for a magical woodland wander! 

(c) Chris Lawrence

5. Spiders

Despite regular reports of ‘giant’ spiders around the UK, we have no real acromantula like Aragog hiding in our forests. 650 species roam the country, but the fen raft spider is the largest native species, with a leg span of over 10cm. They are also one of the most endangered species of spider, only found in three locations in the UK; living in fens and other wetlands. East Anglian nature reserves like Redgrave and Lopham Fen are the best places to see them. The house spider is a common house-mate during the Autumn months, but are, of course, harmless to humans.

(c) Janet Packham

4. The Giant Squid

In the depths of Hogwarts’ Great Lake lurks a beast of enormous proportions, a giant squid. As mythical as they may sound, giant squid really exist, though you wouldn’t find one in a freshwater lake. They are mysterious creatures of the deep sea, some growing to over 40 feet. A few specimens have even been found around the coast of Scotland, with a 10-foot squid caught by a trawler in 2002. Much more common are sightings of their smaller cousin, the cuttlefish. Experts at camouflage, cuttlefish change colour to match their surroundings and avoid predators – a useful trick when you’re only 30cm long!

(c) Alex Mustard/2020VISION

3. Trevor the Toad

Despite being a bit overlooked a lot of the time, Trevor, the toad belonging to Neville Longbottom survives all seven years of Hogwarts. Toads emerge from their dens at night to hunt, and will eat almost any small animal that they can catch with their sticky tongue – including spiders, slugs and even small snakes! To swallow, toads close their eyes and uses their eyeballs to push the food down their throat. Toads regularly shed their skin and eat it (waste not, want not). When toads feel threatened, they secrete a powerful toxin from their skin, which causes painful symptoms to any predators who try to eat them. There is enough toxin in one toad to cause illness or even death – so look but don’t lick!

(c) Chris Lawrence

2. Owls

With the role of pets-turned-posties, owls keep the wizarding world turning. And who could forget Harry’s stunning snowy owl, Hedwig? Surprisingly, despite being birds of Arctic tundra, snowy owls are occasionally found in the UK, usually in the north of Scotland. We have five resident species of owl, many of which feature in the books. There are long-eared and short-eared owls, with bright eyes and a fierce stare, ghostly barn owls that quarter fields at dusk, and tawny owls that twit and twoo in the dark of night. Last but not least (except in terms of size!), there are little owls, like Ron’s excitable Pigwidgeon.

(c) Martin Goodey

1. Patronuses

When the dementors are bearing down to suck out your soul, you summon up your happiest thoughts, wave your wand and Expecto Patronum! A patronus is a powerful, positive, shimmering force that takes the shape of an animal and protects you against evil. We see all sorts of patronuses in Harry Potter, including a stag (Harry), an otter (Hermione), a lynx (Kingsley Shacklebolt), a hare (Luna) and, of course, two does (Lily and Snape). We love that nature represents the better half of yourself, your personality, your love, your deepest inner-nature. Nature makes you feel happier and healthier, and gives you strength. We muggles may not have magic wands, but nature can protect us and look after us, too!

(c) Jon Hawkins

 

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