RECENTLY, while browsing in Oxford’s excellent Museum of Natural History, I was appalled by the number of animal species that have become extinct or endangered due to the actions of man.

I don’t know how many times I read the words ‘European settlers’ in connection with a creature’s demise.

There was a glass case containing a replica of the poor old dodo - wiped out in less than a century, relentlessly hunted by Dutch sailors and the animals they brought with them to the island of Mauritius in the 17th century.

Only now has the 350-year-old mystery of how the world’s best preserved dodo - displayed in the Oxford museum - was killed has been solved. Surprise, surprise, it met its end after being blasted in the head with a shotgun at close range.

How awful to think that this gentle, friendly bird, which had no fear of humans and would probably even have walked up to greet the person who killed it, met it end in this way.

Centuries later, we are still wiping out wildlife, with dozens of species of animals and birds across the world threatened by habitat erosion due to human intrusion, hunting and other practices such as illegal poaching for Chinese medicine.

Over the past 500 years we have caused 322 animal extinctions, and pushed many more on to the brink. As an animal lover, it makes me ashamed to be human. I will not forget the image in a national newspaper of an orangutan clinging to the one tree left standing in his forest after loggers moved in.

Closer to home, hedgehogs - one of the UK’s most wonderful little mammals - are hugely threatened due to pesticides eliminating their food source, development eroding their habitats, traps, and motorists running them over.

I have seen fewer hedgehogs than ever this year and despite efforts being made to safeguard them, I don’t think sufficient people are willing to make their gardens wildlife-friendly. They seem to be more concerned with creating more car parking space than leaving a bit of unmown grass.

We have also seen very few frogs and toads - which are also under threat across the world - whereas a few years ago our garden was full of them, and I don’t know what has happened to the water voles on our local river. A few years ago you could not walk along it without seeing at least a couple. Yet I have not seen one for many months.

I have not seen a thrush in our garden in a long time and there are noticeably fewer sparrows and swifts.

Some people go out of their way to open up their gardens as wildlife havens, which definitely helps. One of my neighbours has created the equivalent of a drive-through take-away for hedgehogs, attracting a steady stream of snuffling animals, each enjoying a hearty meal. They have a small pond too, attracting many amphibians.

We also put out food for hedgehogs - but have not had such success - and have various hedgehog boxes, provided by a local hedgehog rescue centre, dotted around. Full of hay and leaves, they provide a cosy home for winter. We hope to see them out of hibernation soon, forgaing under out bird table.

It’s a small effort, but at least we are doing something. It is terrible to think that my children’s children may grow up in a world without hedgehogs, rhinos, elephants and many other wild animals.

So many creatures gone, never to return, which will be next?

I don’t want to sound too bleak, but the way things are going we humans could end up on the list ourselves.